Lives of the fellows

Francis Edward (Sir) Fremantle

b.29 May 1872 d.26 August 1943
OBE(1919) TD MA MCh DM Oxon DPH FRCS FRCP(1910) DL JP MP

Francis Fremantle’s great-grandfather had commanded the Neptune at Trafalgar. His grandfather, the first Baron Cottesloe, was at one time Secretary for War, and his father, the Hon. William H. Fremantle, was a well-known Dean of Ripon. Born in London, Fremantle himself was a King’s scholar at Eton and an undergraduate of Balliol College, Oxford. Guy’s Hospital gave him his medical training and in 1897 he qualified as a doctor. After a further period at Guy’s as house physician, he took ship for South Africa as a civil surgeon with the field force and, on his return, worked as assistant secretary to a War Office committee for the reorganisation of the Army Medical Services. In 1902 he was made county medical officer for Hertfordshire, but his duties in this capacity were interrupted by his appointment in the next year as plague medical officer in the Punjab and then, from 1903 to 1904, as the Lancet's special correspondent in the Russo-Japanese War. In 1908 he was given the additional post of chief school medical officer in Hertfordshire. When he resigned both public appointments in 1916, the county retained him as a consultant. He also lectured on public health and tropical hygiene at London medical schools. During the 1914-1918 War Fremantle, who had joined the Hertfordshire Yeomanry as a surgeon-captain in 1902 and served as sanitary officer in the East Anglian Division, became D.A.D.M.S. (San.) in Egypt and Mesopotamia, and he also saw service at Gallipoli. He received the O.B.E. in 1919.

On his return to civilian life, he devoted himself to public affairs. From 1906 to 1910 he had been a prospective Unionist parliamentary candidate, and in 1919 he was elected for St. Albans, which he continued to represent till his death. For the greater part of this period, after 1922, he acted as chairman of the Parliamentary Medical Committee, except under Labour Governments, and from 1924 to 1942 he occupied the chair of the Conservative Social Services Committee. From 1919 to 1922 he was a member of the L.C.C. He was also a prominent member of several official and semi-official committees and commissions. He was the author of Health and Empire (1911) and two companion volumes entitled The Housing of the Nation and The Health of the Nation, both published in 1927 and introduced in forewords by Neville Chamber-lain, then Minister of Health. Fremantle, who was knighted in 1932, ever prepared as he was to assist in Parliament causes held dear by his own profession, also held a high conception of his duties as a medical M.P. towards legislation and administration generally. He was a most conscientious attender of debates. Indeed, his capacity for hard work, which, rather than intellectual capacity, had earned his unique collection of medical qualifications, was the distinguishing feature of his career, and all the more praiseworthy in that he was destined fron his youth to inherit a considerable estate in Hertfordshire. He regarded both his work and his play—hunting, tennis, and running — with intense seriousness. As a student, the assiduous attention which he gave daily to the Times amused his fellows. In the House, he made a number of celebrated slips of the tongue — such as a demand, in a population debate, for a bill to control the sale of Conservatives. Fremantle married in 1905 Dorothy Marion Travers, daughter of Henry Joseph Chinnery, J.P, of Bicester, and had one son.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1943; B.M.J., 1943; Presidential Address to R.C.P., 1944, 10]

(Volume IV, page 508)

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