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Biographical entry Wilson, Thomas Henry (1904 - 1999)

OBE 1945; TD 1945; MRCS 1929; FRCS 1931; MB BS London 1930; LRCP 1929.

28 November 1904
Antony, Cornwall
26 March 1999
General surgeon


Tom Wilson was consultant surgeon to the Eastbourne group of hospitals. He was born on 28 November 1904 at Antony in Cornwall, the son of Thomas Wilson, a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland who had served as an Army surgeon during the Boer war, and Edith Mary Crichton (née Boxer), the daughter of Captain Boxer RN. Tom was educated at Merchant Taylors' School (then at Charterhouse Square in London) and won a scholarship to St Thomas's Hospital Medical School, where he qualified in 1929. He served as a special constable during the general strike of 1926 while still a medical student.

After house appointments at St Thomas's to Sir Max Page, R H O B Robinson and Philip Mitchiner, including a year in charge of the fracture unit, he worked as an anatomy demonstrator under Professor Parsons and took his FRCS diploma. In 1932, he was awarded the Solly medal for his thesis on traction for fractures. From 1932 to 1935, he worked as a surgical registrar under Mitchiner and C A R Nitch, after which he moved to Eastbourne and worked part-time in general practice for a year in addition to pursuing his medical career. In 1936, he was appointed assistant surgeon at the Princess Alice Hospital, Eastbourne, and consultant surgeon at the Leaf Hospital.

Throughout his career Tom Wilson had an abiding interest in the Territorial Army, and in 1930 he was commissioned into the RAMC Field Ambulance Unit (University of London). In 1935, he transferred to 58th Field Regiment Artillery TA as medical officer with the rank of Captain. With war clouds looming in 1939, he was appointed second in command of the 3rd General Hospital, RAMC TA, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He went to France in 1940 with the British Expeditionary Force and was captured at Boulogne in May, having stayed behind to look after the British and French wounded. The next five years were spent in German prisoner of war camps, where he was usually the senior British medical officer and the only surgeon, performing many different types of operation under ether anaesthesia. He was eventually freed by the American advance in May 1945 and returned to Britain on VE day. For these services he was awarded the OBE.

Returning to civilian life, he was appointed consultant surgeon to the Eastbourne group of hospitals in 1948, and worked there for the next 21 years. He was also surgeon to the police and fire services, and continued his connection with the TA, eventually becoming commanding officer of the 23rd British General Hospital Army Emergency Reserve with the rank of Colonel. In all he received four bars to his Territorial Decoration.

He was also responsible for the formation of the Eastbourne branch of the RAMC Association, and he was appointed honorary surgeon to the British Limbless Ex-Serviceman's Association. For nearly 40 years he acted as medical officer at Chaseley Paraplegic Home in Eastbourne, and he continued to visit the home every week until long after retirement, an active association which lasted 53 years in all. He was a founder member of the Grey Turner Surgical Club and a regular attender at its meetings. In 1986, he was admitted to the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, and at the age of 90 he was presented with a plaque by the Mayor of Eastbourne for his achievements, an honour previously awarded only to the Royal Sussex Regiment and HMS Eastbourne.

In his spare time he was a keen skier, which he enjoyed until his eighties, and he played tennis until well into his nineties. He was also a kindly and considerate man, and a friend and mentor to many, especially amongst the physically disabled. He married twice, firstly to Olive née Hopper in 1932, by whom he had two daughters, Anthea and Sandra, and a son, Crichton, and secondly, in 1975, to Valerie née Storey, who shared his many interests and who survives him. There are six grandchildren - Petrina, Richard, Jacqueline, Susannah, Mark and Neil. Tom Wilson died on 26 March 1999 aged 94, and at his memorial service in Eastbourne all the ex-service associations paraded their standards in tribute.

Sources used to compile this entry: [The Times 30 March 1999, without memoir].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England