Lives of the fellows

Edward Humfrey Vere Hodge

b.28 August 1883 d.21 April 1968
CIE(1938) MRCS LRCP(1908) MB BChir Cantab(1910) MRCP(1927) MD(1928) FRCP(1937) Hon Fellow SMF Bengal

Edward H. Vere Hodge was born in Oakham, Rutlandshire; his father, the Rev. Edward Vere Hodge, was headmaster of Oakham School, where Edward was educated before going up to Clare College, Cambridge. His mother was Helen, daughter of John Bacchus, JP. At Cambridge he gained honours in the tripos, before going on to St. George’s Hospital, London.

He qualified in 1908, and after holding junior posts at the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, and St. George’s he took the Cambridge degree, and joined the Indian Medical Service, to serve with the 26th Punjab Regiment and the 40th Pathans.

During the war of 1914-18 he saw service first in France in the second battle of Ypres and the gas attacks of the period, and was later transferred to the East African campaign, being mentioned in despatches. He was afterwards invalided to Simla, and resumed his duties with the IMS, where he was posted to Bangalore, the North-West Frontier, Darjeeling, Dacca and other places, with interludes in Hong Kong and Cochin, China.

This life was fun, and he took part in all the activities of a young man in a fascinating world. He rode well, enjoyed the wide range of sport of his world, and hunted big game. But the life of a popular young doctor was not enough, and he went for higher qualifications, taking MRCP in 1927. He was appointed physician to Lord Lytton, the Governor of Bengal, and later (1934-38), Professor of Medicine at the medical college hospital in Calcutta, where he put his clinical experience to advantage as a teacher and as a physician with a particular interest in children.

This interest was acknowledged and put to further use when he was invited to edit the 8th and 9th editions of Birch’s well known Management and Medical Treatment of Children in India and the Tropics, and when later he contributed to the 3rd, 4th and 5th editions of Moncrieff’s Nursing and Diseases of Sick Children.

He was awarded the CIE in 1938, in which year he retired to England. After his return he was appointed lecturer on diseases of tropical climates in the University of Edinburgh, and consulting physician to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. He remained there until 1950, and from 1946 to 1951 was President of the Edinburgh Branch of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and a member of the Council of the parent Society in London.

As a physician and teacher he laid special stress on careful clinical examination - the bedside approach - in the tradition of the masters of his student days. He accepted, of course, modern advances in diagnosis and treatment, but with a half fear that technology might supplant clinical judgment.

As an administrator and leader in Edinburgh during and after the war of 1938-45 he won high praise from his colleagues and from the many patients with tropical diseases who found their way to his wards.

In 1951 he finally retired to Cranleigh in Surrey, to the old, secluded house where his daughter had been born, with its quiet walled garden.

In private life a welcoming and friendly host, he could take a very detached and critical view of men and institutions, and his uninhibited comments on their characters and qualities were salty but rarely acid, and given with a charm which excluded malice. In the East African campaign, he took good care of his African orderlies, whose sometimes outrageous excuses for misconduct appealed to his sense of fun; constantly, even in old age, he recalled their doings and their talk. In retirement, for his grandchildren, he wrote accounts of incidents in which he had been involved. Mostly these were amusing episodes, in which very often the joke was against himself, for he was never pompous, and his gentle and kindly personality came through in his writing. Otherwise, he cultivated his own old garden, specializing in unusual varieties of irises. He was to be seen, a slight, handsome, trim and active figure, digging or pruning, or working at his carpenter’s bench, in perfect contentment.

In 1921 he married Barbara, the younger daughter of Lt.-Gen. Sir Alfred Bingley, KCIE, CB, of the Indian Army. In this happiest of marriages, she provided an artistic background through her own activities as an author of stories with an Indian setting, and plays, many of which have been published. During the war of 1938-45, in Edinburgh, she founded a club for sailors of all nations, which became highly popular. The one daughter of this marriage, with her own children, brought quite exceptional happiness to her devoted parents.

A younger brother, John Douglass Vere Hodge, joined the Indian Civil Service, becoming Deputy Secretary to the Government of India (1926-29) and Commissioner for the Chittagong Division (1936-38). He was awarded the CIE, and retired in 1939.

Charles Wilcocks

[Brit.med.J., 1968, 2, 436; Lancet, 1968, 1, 1042]

(Volume VI, page 247)

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