b.12 November 1932 d.18 October 1991
KBE(1991) QHP(1988) C St J(1987) MB BS Lond(1955) DAvMED Eng(1968) MFOM(1981) FFOM(1989) *FRCP(1991) FRCGP(1991)
Nigel Holroyd Mills was in high office during a period of great change that saw the Gulf War and the introduction of the ‘Options for Change’ review of the armed services. He was born in Swanley, Kent, the second son of Air Chief Marshal Sir George Holroyd Mills and his wife Mary, and educated at Berkhamstead School, Hertfordshire, and the Middlesex Hospital medical school, University of London. After graduation he served as house surgeon and house physician to Bedford General Hospital until June 1956. He then joined the RAF Medical Branch.
After station medical officer duties at RAF Merryfield and RAF Coningsby, largely in the provision of primary and occupational health care, he served at RAF Seletar in Singapore from 1958-60. On his return to the UK he was successively senior medical officer at RAF Stanmore Park and RAF Chivenor before his second overseas posting in 1964 to Edwards Air Force Base in California. He returned to the UK again in 1967 and was posted to RAF Binbrook as senior medical officer. During this time he attended the inaugural diploma course in aviation medicine (DAvMed) at the RAF Institute of Aviation Medicine at Farnborough, which consolidated his then developing interest in the subject; it was to remain his first love throughout his career.
In 1971 he graduated from the RAF Staff College and then served as command flight medical officer at Strike Command HQ, RAF High Wycombe, where he was responsible for the health of aircrew. He next had a period in charge of clinical services at RAF Hospital, Wegberg, in Germany, catering for the large concentration of RAF and British Army personnel in the Monchengladbach-Rhiendalen-Wildenrath area. In 1972 he was awarded the Richard Fox-Linton prize for work on aircrew work load, and was co-author of a study of duty and sleep patterns in aircrew engaged on long range inflight refuelling exercises.
Nigel Mills always enjoyed flying and in 1973 was among the first group of general duty medical officers to be awarded the newly introduced flight medical officer badge on completion of the preliminary flying school course on Chipmunks. On promotion to group captain in 1979 he was appointed officer commanding the RAF Institute of Community and Occupational Medicine for a three-year tour of duty during which he was responsible for and revitalized medical cadet recruitment and training. He was subsequently posted to command the RAF Medical Rehabilitation Unit at Headley Court, which provides comprehensive facilities for personnel from all three services whenever appropriate to hasten recovery from illness or injury and aid a speedy return to duty.
From 1981-83 he was deputy chairman of the planning group formed to consider the future of the RAF medical services which made a number of far-reaching recommendations. On promotion to air commodore in 1983 he returned to Strike Command HQ as deputy principal medical officer, a post he held until appointed principal medical officer to the RAF in Germany in late 1984. He attended the Royal College of Defence Studies in 1987 - the first RAF medical officer to do so - and later that year he was appointed director general medical services (DGMS RAF) with the dual post of deputy surgeon general research and training in the by then tri-service medical directorate in London. In 1990 he was promoted air marshal on appointment as surgeon general to the medical services of the Armed Forces.
Mills was made an officer (Brother) of the Order of St John in 1983 and a commander of the Order in 1988. He was appointed a Queen’s honorary physician in 1988 and created a KBE in the 1991 new year honours.
He was elected a fellow of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, now the Faculty of Public Health Medicine, in 1989 and shortly before his death he was elected a fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners and of the RCP.
Despite his very full career, to which he devoted his life, in his spare time Nigel Mills enjoyed dinghy and off-shore sailing, windsurfing and skiing. He also developed skills in computing and was a great advocate of the use of computers in all aspects of medicine.
In 1956 Nigel married Pamela, née Jones, a radiographer (therapy). His wife, their three married daughters - Alison, Beverly and Penelope - and six grandchildren, survived him.
J S Hall
* Elected under the special bye-law which provides for the election to the fellowship of "Persons holding a medical qualification, but not Members of the College, who have distinguished themselves in the practice of medicine, or in the pursuit of Medical or General Science or Literature.."
[The Times, 25 Oct 1991;The Independent, 25 Oct 1991;The Daily Telegraph, 29 Oct 1991]
(Volume IX, page 366)
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