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Biographical entry Tyler, James Mackenzie (1915 - 1995)

ED 1956; MRCS and FRCS 1946; MB ChB Otago 1938; FRACS 1950.

16 September 1915
Aukland, New Zealand
20 January 1995
General practitioner and General surgeon


Born on 16 September 1915 in Auckland, New Zealand, Jim was the son of James Tyler, the city engineer of Auckland, and his wife Eva, née Mackenzie. He was educated at Auckland Grammar School and Otago Medical School, whence he qualified MB ChB in 1938. After qualifying he worked at Auckland Public Hospital and in 1940 joined the second New Zealand Expeditionary Force. He was posted to the Middle East in 1940 as RMO, 5th Field Regiment. He served in Greece and was left behind at the evacuation, but escaped back to Egypt in a fishing smack to join his regiment.

As RMO, 5th Field Regiment he was captured at Siddie Azziz in 1941, but escaped one week later with the help of some divisional cavalry soldiers. After this battle, he was posted to the 5th Field Ambulance and served in charge of an ADS behind 5th Brigade from Alamein to Tunis at the end of the desert campaign. He was awarded an immediate mention in despatches for his work over this period.

At the end of the war he decided to become a surgeon and went to London, obtaining the FRCS in 1946. In 1947 he returned to New Zealand as surgical registrar at Auckland Hospital. The next year he set up in surgical and general practice at Hastings. He was visiting surgeon to the Memorial Hospital, Hastings, and became senior surgeon in 1960. He retired from the hospital in 1980 and finally gave up practice in 1985. He became FRACS in 1950. During this time he was supervisor of surgical training and responsible for the Hastings Hospital being accepted for one year in the FRACS training programme.

To his colleagues, Jim was a friendly, unassuming, generous man with a keen sense of humour. He was a good listener and a clear communicator. His approach to patients was holistic. He was an astute diagnostician and a fast and skilful operator. He would lend a sympathetic ear to all and always came up with simple, direct advice of a high order, whatever the problem.

Outside medicine, he had a multitude of interests. He was medical officer to the Hawkes Bay Territorial Regiment 1950-6 and received the Efficiency Decoration. A major interest was the Cancer Society, of which he started the local branch and became President of the National Council 1970-1; in 1988 he was made a life member. He was honorary surgeon to the Hawkes Bay Jockey Club. He was a member of the New Zealand Medical Association. He helped set up the YMCA in Hastings and was active in the Hawkes Bay Postgraduate Society. His penchant for cooking was well known. He also enjoyed cars, especially his favourite Jaguar, and had an active interest in the stock market - commenting on the news of Ceramco shares dropping on the day he died!

Tyler died of cancer, a disease which he had done so much to alleviate, on 20 January 1995. He was survived by his wife, Betty Mary, née Ellis, a nurse whom he had married in Rome on 20 February 1945, his daughters Pamela and Diana (both nurses) his son James (Jay) who was also a surgeon, and ten grandchildren.

Sources used to compile this entry: [NZ Med J 1995 208 238; Information from his daughter, Mrs English].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England