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Biographical entry Mansfield, Oliver Turquand (1912 - 1997)

MRCS 1938; FRCS 1941; LRCP 1938.

Sevenoaks, Kent
8 February 1997
Plastic surgeon


Oliver Mansfield was a consultant plastic surgeon to the West Midlands area. He was born in Sevenoaks, Kent, in 1912, the son of Percival Aubertine Mansfield, a general practitioner and Kathleen, a matron of a private nursing home. There was a strong medical tradition in the family - two of his cousins were doctors and his brother became a general practitioner in Middlesex. Despite this background, Oliver's initial interest was in a sea-faring life. He was educated at the Nautical College in Pangbourne, but left early, although he later succeeded in obtaining his mate's certificate. When the shipping slump of the early 1930s halted his maritime ambitions, he decided to attempt medicine as an alternative. It is said that his admission to the Middlesex Hospital Medical School was achieved on the strength of his mate's certificate - a unique distinction for any medical student. He qualified from the Middlesex in 1938 and, after house jobs, was appointed RSO at Great Ormond Street, before becoming surgical registrar at the Middlesex.

It was at the Middlesex that he met two people who were destined to play an important role in his future. Jean Elizabeth Holloway was nursing there. They met and married, and she and their two daughters, Susanne and Elisabeth, became a central feature of Oliver's life. The other significant encounter was with Rainsford Mowlem, plastic surgeon to the Middlesex, who invited Oliver to train with him at Hill End Hospital, St Alban's. His immediate predecessor as chief assistant at Hill End had been John Barron and, shortly after the second world war, both these young surgeons spent several months working in Yugoslavia, then under Communist domination, teaching the details of plastic surgery.

When the NHS began in 1948 there was no trained plastic surgeon in Birmingham and the entire West Midlands, one of the largest and most populous regions in the country. Mansfield was appointed in March 1949 to cover this almost impossible brief. He saw out-patients, had beds within the teaching hospitals and developed a regional plastic centre at Wordsley, Stourbridge, about ten miles out of the city. He also undertook peripheral clinics at Coventry and the orthopaedic hospital at Oswestry. He performed this huge responsibility single-handed, until a second plastic surgeon was appointed three years later. The large amount of travelling involved was performed in a series of rather racy MGs, but in his more mature years these were replaced by a sturdy Mercedes sports car.

Small in stature, but neat and sprucely turned out, he was very precise in instructing how an individual case was to be managed. His particular interests were in cleft lip and palate surgery, congenital deformities of the hand and in malignant disease, especially of the head and neck. These procedures were often undertaken in conjunction with a general surgical colleague. He was a meticulous surgeon who insisted on the highest standards, and several of his foibles became features of the residents' Christmas show for many years. He could not abide any sort of ligature placed close to the skin as he considered this interfered with wound healing and the formation of a neat scar. Hence all the small blood vessels underlying the skin were neatly clipped with fine mosquito haemostats. At the conclusion of the operation these were swiftly twisted off with great panache and usually, a suitable quip. He was a splendid teacher and had a warm sense of humour.

His greatest hobby and delight was sailing, which he was able to enjoy at Barnt Green, as well as further afield on the Hamble and the Channel. He was a demonic skipper who held his crew in thrall. In 1973, he sustained a deep vein thrombosis in a leg but absolutely refused to consider any form of anticoagulation because a friend had died from its complications in his student days. He was therefore unable to work full-time for several months and eventually decided to retire early. From then on his health steadily deteriorated and he became progressively more disabled. He died on 8 February 1997. Many warm tributes were paid to him at his memorial service.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Br J Plast Surg 1997 50 559, with portrait].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England