Lives of the fellows

Basil Elystan Miles

b.21 April 1914 d.16 August 1998
MRCS LRCP(1938) MB BChir Cantab(1939) MRCP(1946) MD(1950) FRCP(1961)

Basil was a consultant physician in Hereford. He grew up in Surrey, the son of an army officer, and was educated at the King’s Choir School, Cambridge, and at Sherborne School. He later went to Clare College, Cambridge, and then to St Thomas’s, London, for his clinical studies. He had the unusual experience of a spell at a medical school in Tübingen in Germany, staying with the professor of medicine and his sons who were active members of the Hitler Youth organization. Basil related that patients in the hospital would greet him with ‘Heil Hitler’, to which he would reply ‘God save the King’.

He joined the RAMC in 1939, a year after qualifying, and in 1941 went to the Middle East. He was severely wounded on the first day of the battle of El Alamein, but made a good recovery in spite of added infection. He returned to the war zone and worked in a hospital in Naples with Richard Turner [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.536]. Basil sometimes intimated that he had picked up some of his habits from Turner, habits which remained with him for the rest of his life, and included a devotion to his work and a disregard of off-duty times. It was in Naples that Basil met Sadie, who was nursing there and there they married.

He returned to St Thomas’s after the war as a supernumerary registrar. He passed his membership of the College in 1946 and became a senior resident and then senior university lecturer at the hospital. In 1947 he went to Otago, New Zealand, for some months, working in a hypertensive clinic and helping with phonocardiography. On his return, he joined the professorial unit at St Thomas’s; his research work was, for the most part, with Hugh de Wardener and was concerned with renal physiology. He could probably have continued an academic career, but, because of his great interest in natural history, he was anxious to live and work in the country.

His appointment as consultant physician to the Hereford Group of Hospitals in 1954 was ideal for him. However, he had little free time to exercise his outside interests; the Hereford Hospitals, at that time, were largely staffed by general practitioners or those who had not had consultant training. Basil was responsible for great improvements over the next ten years, which made Hereford a popular centre, attracting staff of all grades. The welcome, hospitality and guidance given by Basil and Sadie to applicants and new staff contributed largely to the popularity of Hereford as a centre in which to work.

He avoided administrative appointments and chairing committees as much as possible, but those in such offices regularly looked to him for help and advice. His medical opinion was much sought after, not only in the large county of Herefordshire, but also in much of central Wales. He enjoyed his long journeys through lovely countryside, to distant hospitals and general practitioners, although these were carried out, for the most part, in the evenings and at weekends.

He was the first clinical tutor in Hereford, establishing a good programme of continuing education and introducing novel ideas such as ‘university symposia’ each year when neighbouring universities sent down teams of lecturers to give a day of talks on recent developments and research. He was also innovative with regard to the hospitals’ social activities, starting summer garden parties for his medical staff and Easter Monday walks, when he encouraged as many staff as possible, with their families, to accompany him up into the neighbouring hills.

He was an active member of the Herefordshire Nature Trust from the time of its foundation and when he retired he worked regularly for several years, hedging, ditching and coppicing on the Trust’s reserves. He became an expert on moths and wrote an authoritative article on local species and published a booklet on famous naturalists of Herefordshire. He continued visiting his favourite reserves and other walking areas as long as he could, introducing his friends and their families to them and their wildlife.

J H Ross

[, 1998,317,1458]

(Volume XI, page 398)

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