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Biographical entry Osborne, Anthony Howard (1940 - 2015)

MRCS LRCP 1967; FRCS 1976; FRCS Edin 1976; MCh Liverpool 1980; FRCS (Orth) Edin 1980.

25 April 1940
2 July 2015
Naval surgeon and Orthopaedic surgeon


Tony Osborne was a consultant orthopaedic surgeon in the Royal Navy. He was born in York to Laura (née Chatterton) and William Osborne. Laura was a woman ahead of her time: she dabbled in the Stock Market before it was easy or fashionable to do so. She also did photographic modelling and was a charming family woman. William was a teacher at Ampleforth College, before joining the Royal Navy at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. He reached the rank of instructor lieutenant, but was killed in December 1941 in the sinking of HMS Neptune.

When Tony was seven his mother married again. His new stepfather was George Leo Watson, a Cambridge graduate who had spent the war years as a district officer in India. George was a highly respected mathematician who worked for many years as professor of mathematics at University College, London. George soon adopted Tony, who settled into his new family life in Oswaldkirk, Yorkshire.

Tony attended school at Ampleforth Junior House and then Ampleforth College (St Bede's house). He took up rugby as his favourite sport with considerable success, playing prop for the first XV. His housemaster - Father (later Cardinal) Basil Hume - was also first XV coach and Tony had very fond memories of this fair, loyal and charismatic man.

After leaving school, Tony became a medical student at Guy's Hospital and always said that his entry was helped greatly by their being short of a prop forward! During his student days he joined the Royal Navy as a surgeon sub-lieutenant. On completion of his house jobs, he joined the Navy proper as a surgeon lieutenant.

After qualification, together with his first wife Ann, Tony was stationed in Singapore for three years, where he served on HMS Forth, a submarine depot ship. The marriage produced his eldest four sons, but sadly Ann was to die when they were quite young.

Tony was married to his second wife, Glynis, for almost 40 years after they met over the operating table at the Royal Naval Hospital, Haslar, where she was serving as a senior nursing officer in the Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service. Tony and Glynis had a fifth son and a daughter.

Tony also served on HMS Bulwark, HMS Ark Royal and HMS Illustrious, and was also medical officer in charge of a field surgical team in Oman for six months supporting the troops of Sultan Qaboos. In this role he dealt with many gunshot, shrapnel and mine injuries. The experience in Oman was invaluable when, in 1982, Tony treated wounded service personnel repatriated from the Falklands conflict.

In 1976, Tony obtained fellowships of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons of England and of Edinburgh, and became an orthopaedic registrar and then senior registrar at the Royal Naval Hospital, Haslar. In 1978 he commenced higher training at Lord Mayor Treloar Hospital in Alton and then at Southampton General Hospital, both in Hampshire.

In 1980 Tony spent a year as an honorary lecturer in Liverpool whilst studying and obtaining his MCh in orthopaedics. He subsequently also gained an FRCS in orthopaedics from Edinburgh. In 1981 he was appointed as a consultant orthopaedic surgeon to the Royal Naval Hospital and in 1988 was appointed head of orthopaedics, a role he fulfilled until retirement.

Tony's career featured a range of academic accolades. In 1982 he was awarded the Errol Eldridge prize for his work on various aspects of the knee joint. He also received a grant from the Medical Research Council to fund a graduate researcher to evaluate the knee signature system. He published many papers in journals, including the Journal of Urology, the Journal of the Royal Naval Medical Service and the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. He was also a founder member of the British Association for Surgery of the Knee.

His medical successes also meant that, during the 1980s, Tony was appointed Surgeon to Their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales for their foreign tours. With them he often toured out of the way places. When keeping the electricity supply to fluids and drugs was a challenge, the RAF or Navy usually came to the rescue! Tony developed his love of opera when visiting La Scala in Milan with the Prince and Princess. He was a most loyal and dedicated servant to the Crown.

Rather than bringing rest, Tony's 'retirement' in 1993 (at the rank of surgeon captain) meant establishing a successful medico-legal practice in partnership with his wife. He alternated clinics at Harley Street with extensive international travel. In the last year of his life alone he travelled to Australia, America, Germany, Greece and Cyprus. Tony also remained an active member of the Royal Society of Medicine, the British Society for Surgery of the Hand, the Royal Colleges of Surgeons of England and Edinburgh, the British Orthopaedic Association, the British Medical Association, the British Library, the Royal Asiatic Society and the Royal Opera House. He was still working, travelling and pursuing his interests when he died unexpectedly on 2 July 2015, aged 75.

Tony's fondest times were spent with family - his five sons and daughter - and eight grandchildren. In April 2015 all gathered to celebrate his 75th birthday, which was a joyous occasion.

Since his death many letters of condolence have been received by his family from colleagues both within and outside of the Royal Navy. The common theme is of remembrance of a quiet, intelligent, inspiring surgeon. One surgeon to whom Tony acted as a mentor said knowing Tony had helped him on his path to surgery as he had been so well taught and supported. Tony's wife and family were sincerely touched by the letter of condolence they received from HRH The Prince of Wales.

Glynis Osborne

The Royal College of Surgeons of England