Lives of the fellows

Benjamin Brian Hosford

b.6 June 1904 d.8 July 1989
MRCS LRCP(1926) MB BS Lond(1926) MD(1929) MRCP(1930) FRCP(1969)

Brian Hosford’s forebears originated from Southern Ireland; the local grocer’s shop in Skibbereen still bears the name of Hosford, a distant relative. His father, Benjamin Hosford, was a general practitioner in Highgate. Brian and his wife Mary, née Haines, had four sons who all entered medicine: John became a senior surgeon at Bart’s; Maurice, a consultant anaesthetist in Bedford; Reginald, a general practitioner in the West Country and Brian, a consultant general physician in Tunbridge Wells.

Brian was educated at Highgate School and received his medical training at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. After qualification he held house appointments at the West London Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street. He then settled in Tunbridge Wells, initially as a general practitioner and subsequently as consultant physician and cardiologist to the newly built Kent and Sussex Hospital. He retired from hospital practice in 1969 but continued in private practice until shortly before his death.

As a member of the Territorial Army, he was medical officer to the Royal West Kent Regiment and at the outbreak of war in 1939 he was called up for active service. He was taken prisoner after just a few months, while working at a field hospital in Le Touquet, and for some time was in a prisoner of war camp in Germany. He was due to be released as part of a prisoner exchange scheme planned by the International Red Cross and was taken to the race course in Rouen in readiness. The scheme fell through and he was moved to a camp for internees at St Denis, near Paris, where he spent the rest of the war looking after his fellow prisoners. During this time he was one of the few British officers allowed out on parole in Paris, where he took great delight in wearing British uniform and acknowledging the salutes of members of the German army of occupation.

After the liberation of Paris in 1944 he returned to Tunbridge Wells where he rejoined the staff of the Kent and Sussex Hospital and was also appointed to both the Pembury and Crowborough Hospitals.

A general physician of the old school, he was an active participant in the early development of the National Health Service and subsequently with the transition of cardiology from ‘an interest’ to a specialty in its own right. He was fully involved in medical administration and served as president of the Kent branches of the British Medical Association and the Arthritis and Rheumatism Council. For over 30 years he was widely regarded - quite rightly - as the doyen of the medical profession over a wide area of Kent and Sussex.

Brian was a delightful person who was esteemed by his colleagues, revered by the hospital staff, idolized by his patients and loved by all. Behind a shy exterior and an almost undetectable lisp there was a complete commitment to patient care. His undeniable charm was complemented by more than a suggestion of absent mindedness and a singular contempt for things mechanical. His cars, when new, were soon scarred as a result of many and varied encounters, and the gates and gate posts of his friends and patients were similarly abraded -indicating a lifelong disrespect for the more tedious provisions of the Highway Code. During the course of a driving lesson, his ward - who did not bear the name of Hosford - was told by her driving instructor ‘There goes the worst driver in Tunbridge Wells!’ as Brian passed them on the road going in the opposite direction. He played more than his full part in all hospital activities and, when driving home from the hospital on Christmas Day, was completely unabashed when he had to assist two elderly ladies over a zebra crossing while he himself was dressed as the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Tall and rubicund, he was the epitome of ‘the beloved physician’. It was this image, together with his somewhat vague demeanour, his diligence, his obvious love of his fellow men and his quiet sense of fun, which produced a unique character and accounted for his immense popularity. The official history of the Kent and Sussex Hospital said of him: ‘When he retired the sadness was tempered with delight that he would continue to be around.’ In a sense, he always will.

RC King

[Brit.med.J., 1989,299,789]

(Volume IX, page 246)

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