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Biographical entry Bourns, Herbert Kitchener (1916 - 1991)

KStJ; MRCS and FRCS 1949; BA 1938; MB BCh BAO Dublin 1940.

14 July 1916
County Galway
12 October 1991
Accident and emergency surgeon


Herbert Kitchener Bourns was born in County Galway on 14 July 1916, the sixth of seven children of Harry J Bourns, a farmer and landowner, and his wife Esther Josephine, née Cornwall. His early education was at St Columba's College near Dublin, after which he entered Trinity College Dublin for his medical studies. He qualified in 1940 and shortly afterwards came to England to work, initially at the Emergency Medical Service Hospital in Exminster and later as house surgeon and resident surgical officer at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in Plymouth, where he was influenced by Norman Capener.

In 1942 he volunteered for service in the RAMC and at first was a trainee orthopaedic surgeon at the Military Hospital in Shaftesbury. He later became an orthopaedic specialist with the rank of major and landed in Normandy four days after the invasion in order to set up a field hospital in Caen, later moving to Brussels at the end of the campaign in North West Europe. Later still he was posted to the Far East, and served in India, Burma and Malaysia until he was demobilised in 1947. Two years later he passed the FRCS and was appointed senior registrar at the Bristol Royal Infirmary.

In 1952 he became the first casualty surgeon in charge of the Accident and Emergency department of Bristol Royal Infirmary and additionally was appointed consultant surgeon at Frenchay and Cosham Hospitals in Bristol. His close contact with the ambulance services led him to volunteer as lecturer and examiner to the St John's Ambulance Service. Later he became Director of the St John's Association in Avon and his services were recognised by his appointment as an Officer of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in 1971, later being promoted to Commander, and shortly before his death to Knight of the Order. He was President of the Bristol Medico-Chirurgical Society and of the Surgical Club of South West England. He was a popular teacher of medical students and throughout his life performed a wide range of surgical operations. His manner was calm and kind and enlivened by a quick wit and ready humour. With the advent of the hospice movement he played an active role in the foundation of St Peter's Hospice in Bristol and in setting up a domiciliary nursing service. He was a member of the Christian Medical Fellowship and an active member of St Vincent Lodge in Bristol, where he was a holder of Provincial Grand Rank.

After retiring from hospital practice in 1981 he continued to play an active part in medical appeal tribunals. He married his wife Joan, née Glanville, in 1942, having met her the previous year when she was a Red Cross nurse at Exminster, and there were four sons of the marriage. He enjoyed the country life at his wife's family farm in Devon and was a keen gardener at his home in Bristol. He died suddenly on 12 October 1991, aged 75, survived by his wife, sons and ten grandchildren.

Sources used to compile this entry: [BMJ 1992 304 636; West Eng Med J 1992 106 117].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England