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Biographical entry Woods, Reginald Salisbury (1891 - 1986)

MRCS 1916; FRCS 1922; MB BCh Cambridge 1916; MD 1919; LRCP 1916.

15 October 1891
21 September 1986
General practitioner


Reginald (Rex) Salisbury Woods was born in Dulwich on 15 October 1891, the son of Henry Thomas Woods. His mother, Lilian, was the sister of Frank Salisbury CVO, LLD, the portrait painter. He entered Dulwich College in 1906 at the age of fourteen and in his last year was senior school prefect as well as being in the first XV at rugby. His interest in throwing the 16 pound weight started at that time when he attained the public schools record distance of 37 feet 7 inches. He left the school with an open exhibition at Downing College.

He went up to Cambridge in 1911 and almost immediately won the weight and hammer in the Freshmen's Sports at Fenner's, afterwards being awarded a half blue. He represented Cambridge in 1912, 1913, 1914, and 1920 attaining his best distance at putting the shot 41 feet 1 inch at Queen's Club against Oxford on 27 March 1914 (the first undergraduate to achieve more than 40 feet).

After acquiring an honours BA degree in 1914 he proceeded to St George's Hospital for his clinical studies at the suggestion of Sir Crisp English, a family friend, starting as dresser to Claude Frankau. Shortly after entering the medical school he won the senior universities entrance scholarship and in 1915 he gained the Webb Prize for bacteriology. He qualified with the Conjoint Diploma in April 1916 and passed the Cambridge MB two months later. In August 1916 he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps serving in 54th Casualty Clearing Station where he found himself serving again under Claude Frankau, now Lieutenant-Colonel. In December 1918 he was posted to 4th London General Hospital which included part of King's College Hospital under Major, later Sir Ernest, Rock-Carling and where he was in charge of fractured femur wards. At that time skeletal traction was being introduced and he devised a hinged abduction bar fitted to the Balkan Beam for fractures of the upper third of the femur. The work was submitted in 1919 as a thesis for the degree of MD which was approved by the Regius Professor of Physic, Sir Clifford Allbutt.

After demobilisation later that year he joined a general practice in Cambridge. In addition to professional commitments he found time to study for the final FRCS attending a course at the London Hospital. He passed the examination in November 1922, four months after winning the weight for England against Ireland and Scotland in Glasgow. He later represented his country at weight-putting in the 1924 and 1928 Olympics.

At Cambridge he was always much involved with the treatment of sports injuries and he personally operated on many patients in the practice. Despite receiving invitations to apply for posts on the surgical staff at Addenbrooke's Hospital and St George's Hospital he remained in general practice. His views on treatment contrasted with the traditional doctrine of rest advocated by Hilton for all painful afflictions, traumatic as well as inflammatory.

In 1943 at the suggestion of Sir Arthur Porritt he again joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and after working initially at the Cambridge Military Hospital with Ronald Furlong and Sir Edward Muir was posted as surgical specialist with the rank of Major to Diego Suarez at the northern tip of Madagascar. He later served in Mauritius before returning to England towards the end of the war as surgical specialist at the Royal Herbert Hospital, Woolwich, when the Germans were attacking London with V1 and V2 bombs. He was demobilised in July 1945 and returned to his practice in Cambridge also resuming his office of Chairman of the Cambridge University Athletic Club.

In 1918 he married Irene Pickering whom he had met two years previously when she was nursing at St George's Hospital and they had one son and two daughters. During the second world war his wife played a prominent role as deputy director in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, recognised by the award of CBE (Mil) in 1947.

She predeceased him in 1976 and he died at his home on 21 September 1986 aged 94.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 13 October 1986; Oxford versus Cambridge, a record of inter-university contests, J Bruce Kerr and HM Abrahams, Faber & Faber, pp 32-34; Cambridge doctor, RS Woods, Robert Hale Ltd, 1962].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England