Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Sutcliffe, Richard Brook (1904 - 1991)

MRCS 1931; FRCS 1962; LRCP 1931.

26 April 1904
Boston, Lincolnshire
22 January 1991
General practitioner


Richard Sutcliffe was born on 26 April 1904 in Boston, Lincolnshire, the second son of John Bell Sutcliffe, a shipowner and broker. He was educated at Kirton Grammar School in Lincolnshire and Panel Ash College, Yorkshire, before going to Sedbergh, from where he gained entry to St John's College, Cambridge. He was accepted at Guy's Hospital Medical School for his clinical training, qualifying MRCS LRCP in 1931. His house appointments at Guy's were those of clinical assistant and assistant house surgeon to Mr C Hughes, and also house physician, house anaesthetist and outpatients' officer. During this time he was elected President of the Residents. In 1932 he married Eileen Constance Tuxford, and they later had two sons and a daughter.

In the course of his training and subsequent appointments he developed a strong interest in surgery, and he first joined a practice in Essex as a GP surgeon. Attracted by the charms of the Channel Islands, he moved to Guernsey in 1932 as a partner to Dr Montague. A time of stress followed, as his partner became ill, and he was left in charge of the practice which, like all practices in Guernsey at the time, was that of a GP, whatever their special interest. Very soon, the threat of war with Germany arose, and Dr Montague, a Jew, was advised to return to England. In view of the risks of life in Guernsey, Dr Sutcliffe arranged for his wife and children also to return, whilst being in no doubt that his duty lay with his patients on the island. He was therefore left on his own to face the later German occupation.

He showed great courage and determination throughout those five years. When one of his patients was raped by a German soldier, he complained to the authorities and the soldier was court-martialled. He played a leading part in keeping a medical service going under conditions of increasing difficulty for both occupiers and occupied. He gave up his car and did his rounds on a motor-cycle. Towards the end of the war there was near starvation on the island. On one occasion the butcher found him a chop, and he was so hungry he ate it raw before he could get it home to cook it. On Liberation Day he used a film which he had kept concealed throughout the war to record the celebrations, and parts of this may still be seen in the Guernsey Occupation Museum.

After the war he had another twenty five years in practice, and he gained the FRCS in 1962. He was a safe surgeon, aware of his limitations, and he always looked to Guy's when he needed help. He was a good friend of Sir Heneage Ogilvy, who became a frequent visitor, and FR Kilpatrick, the urologist. Other Guy's consultants also visited regularly.

He was a member of the Board of Health in Guernsey and played a prominent part in planning the new extension to the Princess Elizabeth Hospital, opened in 1974 by the Queen Mother. It included new surgical wards, operating theatres, an intensive care unit and a pharmacy. Brook played an important part in planning this new development, which he tackled with his characteristic thoroughness, attention to detail and plain speaking.

Brook retired in 1972, and received the high honour of being appointed Jurat - an assistant to the Bailiff, Chief Law Officer on the island. Later he became a magistrate, taking responsibility for industrial disputes.

His wife died in 1981, but he continued to live at home, despite increasing disability from osteoarthritic hips. At the end he developed a bladder tumour, for which he had to undergo several surgical interventions. Finally he decided against further treatment, and died peacefully on 22 January 1991, concluding a life typical of his times, independent-minded, with a strong sense of duty and commitment to the welfare of others.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England