Lives of the fellows

Robert Walsh Mussen

b.13 May 1900 d.12 November 1985
CBE(1949) CB(1945) MRCS LRCP(1922) MB ChB BAO(1922) MRCP(1935) FRCP(1949)

‘Paul’ Mussen, who retired from the Royal Navy as a surgeon rear admiral, was the son of a distinguished Ulster solicitor and was brought up at Bangor, County Down. After attending Campbell College, Belfast, he received his medical education at Queen’s University, Belfast, and Charing Cross Hospital, London.

Paul entered the Royal Navy in 1922. His early years in the Navy were spent at sea and he had a number of foreign commissions: the East Indies, the Persian Gulf, and twice in the Mediterranean. His ships included HMS Birmingham 1923, Dido 1926, Danae and Calliope 1928, Shropshire 1937-37, Maylaya, Barham, and Hood in 1938-39, as squadron medical officer. Fortunately his medical ambitions were catered for by extensive periods in RN Hospitals and by attachment to Charing Cross Hospital, with the opportunity to obtain his MD and MRCP. In 1939 he was appointed to the Royal Naval Hospital Haslar as the medical specialist, and remained there during the early years of the war. In 1942 he was selected for a newly created wartime job with attachment to the surgeon general of the United States Navy in Washington DC. In this prestigious appointment he forged most valuable links between the RN medical service and the USN medical service; not only did his work prove invaluable to both navies during the war but it also established a special relationship with the United States Medical Service which continued after the end of hostilities. He was made a surgeon captain (acting) in 1943 and was confirmed in this rank in 1944.

In 1945 he took over as medical officer in charge, RN Medical School, Clevedon, Somerset. Later he moved this establishment to Alverstoke; it is now the Institute of Naval Medicine and it always gave Paul great satisfaction throughout his later years to know that he had laid the foundation for this Institute, which does so much to support the modern Navy in teaching, training and research.

Paul Mussen was promoted to surgeon rear admiral in 1952, for duty as medical officer in charge RNH Chatham and as command medical officer on the staff of commander-in-chief Nore. This was a very happy period, not only for Paul Mussen and his family but for all who served in this hospital. He maintained high standards himself and expected the same of others, in whom he inspired admiration and loyalty.

In 1932, at RNH Chatham, Paul Mussen married Mary, daughter of Surg.Rear Admiral and Mrs HER Stephens. They had three children who married and lived in England.

On retirement from the Navy in 1955 he was pressed to stand as the MP for County Down, but finally settled for a second career with the Ministry of Health where he had a special interest in polio cases and the provision of respirators. He retired from the Ministry in 1965. In retirement he wrote his autobiography The Story of a Naval doctor, [Ditchling], 1983, and was involved in local government, being chairman of Chailey Rural District Council 1972-74.

Surg. Vice Admiral GJ Milton-Thompson

[Brit.med.J., 1985,292,1209; The Times, 25 Nov 1985]

(Volume VIII, page 357)

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