Lives of the fellows

Edward Selby Phipson

b.10 March 1884 d.25 May 1973
CIE(1935) DSO(1916) MRCS LRCP(1907) MB BS Lond(1908) DPH Eng(1913) MD(1920) DTM&H(1920) MRCP(1926) OStJ(1930) FRCP(1939)

Edward Selby Phipson (‘Aden’ Phipson) was born in Birmingham, the son of Ernest Thring Phipson, a company director, and his wife Ada Mary, daughter of G.P. Yeats, an artist. He was educated at King Edward’s School, Birmingham, Birmingham University and University College, London. He qualified with the Conjoint diploma in 1907 and took the MB BS in 1908, passing into the Indian Medical Service by examination that same year. After his preliminary years of regimental service he returned to England and took the DPH in 1913. On his return to India he was posted to Burma as deputy sanitary commissioner. On the outbreak of the 1914-18 war he was recalled to military duty and posted to the Gurkha Rifles, with which his name will always be associated. During a critical phase of the fighting in Gallipoli all the British officers of the 156th Gurkha Rifles were killed or wounded. As the subahdar major knew no English, Phipson assumed command of the battalion and continued in action for two days until the unit was ordered to withdraw. For his gallantry he was awarded the DSO.

Invalided to India, he was first appointed assistant medical officer of health Bombay, and then to Simla as health officer. He held this post for five years with great professional efficiency. In 1923 he was appointed to the coveted post of port health officer Aden, and officer in charge of the European General Hospital there. He remained in this post until 1937 when Aden ceased to be a dependency of India. He was then promoted to colonel and appointed inspector general of civil hospitals in Assam. On reaching the age limit of his rank in 1941 he was re-employed in his former post at Simla until 1945. During his periods of leave, Phipson studied assiduously and took the DTM&H and MD in 1920, the MRCP in 1926, and was elected FRCP in 1939, an unusual honour for one who had never held a research or academic post.

During his time in India, in a world of pure Kipling, he became known to all the VIPs. He attained a very high proficiency in the Urdu language, and spoke Burmese, Pushtu, Gurkhali, French, German and Italian. He also gained a high reputation as an actor, producer and stage manager in what was reputed to be the oldest and best-equipped amateur dramatic club in the world. In 1913 he married Mary, daughter of Hugh Stott, a medical practitioner, and they had two daughters. During his second period of service in Simla he did sterling training work for the St John Ambulance Association and, in his long retirement, he served on pension boards, and worked for the Order of St John and for his local community. He was admired and respected by his brother officers, and in everything he did he was satisfied with nothing but the best.

Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
V Luniewska

[Brit.med.J., 1973, 2, 720]

(Volume VI, page 378)

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