Lives of the fellows

Hugh William Holland

b.23 January 1918 d.29 May 1995
MRCS LRCP(1942) MB BS Lond(1948) MRCP(1949) DMRD(1951) FRCP(1976) MA Cantab(1977)

Few can have known the challenges Hugh Holland faced and successfully overcame in the early years of his medical career and in retirement, for he seldom spoke of them. He was born Heinz Walter Horbacz, the only son of Jacob Bernard Horbacz, an Austrian merchant, in Tientsin, China. The family moved to the international settlement in Shanghai for business reasons, where he attended the Cathedral School and became fluent in both English and French. He went to London in 1934 to matriculate and in 1935 began his medical studies at St Bartholomew’s Hospital.

With the outbreak of the Second World War he volunteered for the Army although, as an Austrian national and not yet qualified, he had little choice but to join the Pioneer Corps. He served with the British Expeditionary Force in France, before being evacuated in June 1940 from St Malo. The Army advised him to take his discharge to finish his medical degree, but his source of funds had been cut following the Japanese invasion of China. Hearing of his predicament a refugee banker he had met in the Pioneer Corps offered to lend him the money to return to Bart’s and he successfully qualified in 1942. After completing one house job in Bootle he was commissioned into the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1943. Before going on active service he was advised to change his name, which he did. He served in a field ambulance unit with the 82nd West African Division throughout the latter part of the Burma campaign, an experience he seldom referred to. He did not return to the UK again until 1946.

Before going overseas he met his future wife, Jean Margaret Hyde Duke, the daughter of a naval officer and, after he had been naturalized - not without difficulty, the Japanese having destroyed the public records at Tientsin - they were married in 1947.

While working at the North Middlesex Hospital he decided on a career in radiology. After training at Manchester Royal Infirmary and Ancoats Hospital he was appointed in 1954 to his first consultant post at Chelmsford. In 1956 he moved to Cambridge, where he held a joint appointment as consultant radiologist to Addenbroke’s and Huntingdon County Hospitals. He retired in 1983.

A private, kindly, conscientious and studious man, Hugh Holland was at his best when dealing with individual patients and junior staff and addressing clinical problems that engaged his interest. A good observer and diagnostician, he would recall events and references long forgotten by others and was upset by those less concerned with detail than he. No committee man, he wisely avoided them, as he did all forms of confrontation and colleagues he found overbearing. Although widely read in the classics as well as medicine, he did not write with ease nor care to lecture, but when persuaded to talk to a small and intimate group, he would do so with erudition and humour. A cautious motorist, he would recount with wry amusement how he was stopped by the police and admonished for driving too slowly. In his later years he obtained increasing pleasure and comfort from his books.

With few interests outside medicine he welcomed retirement only for the opportunity it afforded him to pursue at leisure and in greater detail subjects that had long occupied his mind. Within a year he suffered a haemoptysis found to be due to lung cancer, a diagnosis he accepted with remarkable equanimity. The subsequent pneumonectomy which eradicated the disease was followed by a long period of rehabilitation and near full recovery. Further but unrelated serious illnesses marred his last years but, although somewhat slowed, his intellect mercifully remained intact.

T D Hawkins

(Volume X, page 221)

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