Lives of the fellows

David William Pugh

b.15 April 1915 d.3 October 1989
DSC(1940) MRCS LRCP(1938) MB BS Lond(1938) MRCP(1944) MD(1946) FRCP(1956)

David Pugh was born in London. His father, David Richard Pugh, a farmer and dairyman, came from the Aberystwyth area of Wales and his mother, Mary Anne née Rowlands, also came from the same area. David’s sense of his Welsh origin was strengthened when, as a boy, his health made it advisable for him to leave London and spend a year or more on his grandfather’s farm; where he attended the local village school and learned to speak Welsh like his fellow pupils. Some knowledge of the language never left him and he was proud of this.

On his return to London, his main schooling was at the Central Foundation School from where he entered the London Hospital medical school. After graduation one of his early junior appointments was as house physician in 1939 to Sir John Parkinson [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.443] and William Evans [Munk ’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.146].

On the outbreak of war he immediately volunteered for naval service and soon found himself a surgeon lieutenant RNVR in one of the hastily commissioned ‘V & W’ destroyers, HMS Whitshed, serving in the western approaches and the English channel. The activities of HMS Whitshed have been graphically described by lieutenant commander George Stitt, under the pseudonym of HMS Wideawake in the book of that name published by George Allen and Unwin in 1943. In May 1940 the ship took part in the evacuation of Boulogne, rescuing hundreds of troops and refugees and exchanging fire with German artillery and tanks at close range in the last few hours before the port was captured. The ship was damaged and there were many casualties. David Pugh, disguised in the book as surgeon lieutenant Hughe, was'. quite regardless of his own safety and moved about the ship doing what he could for each injured man, still armed with the morphia, his first aid bag, the bottle of brandy - and the cipher books.’ He was awarded the DSC. Later, the ship assisted at the evacuation of Dunkirk.

In July 1940 it struck a mine off Harwich and almost sank. To quote Stitt’s account again: ‘Regardless of danger, Hughe climbed down into the flooded mess deck where a mixture of oil fuel and water was steadily rising.’ He and two young sailors ‘. . . with water up to their necks, and not knowing whether the ship would capsize at any moment, fought with the wreckage to free anyone who was still alive.’ The ship limped back to port but never sailed again. David Pugh was subsequently mentioned in despatches.

After service in cruisers in the Mediterranean, he was posted to the naval hospital at Haslar in 1943-44, where he had the opportunity to study and gain his membership of the College. More importantly, it was at this time that he met a nursing sister from Edinburgh, Betty Milne, and they married on the eve of D-day. David finished the war as a medical specialist at naval hospitals in India and the Far East, with the rank of surgeon lieutenant commander.

On his return to the London Hospital in 1946 he became first assistant to Sir Horace, later Lord, Evans [Munk's Roll, Vol.V, p.123] and to Dick Bomford [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, 52]. In 1950 he was appointed consultant physician in Bath and until his retirement 28 years later his work centred on the Royal United Hospital serving Bath and a wide area of Wiltshire and Somerset through a number of GP hospitals. His activities covered a broad medical spectrum. He had a special interest in diabetes, setting up a clinic in this specialty. He also set up a clinic in endocrinology and another - jointly with a radiotherapist - in oncology.

David was not drawn to academic research and did not enjoy lecturing, but his opinion was widely sought as a clinician. He was as much concerned with patients as human beings as with their illness. It was the same with colleagues, both senior and junior; his concern was with their qualities, their work load, their training and their futures. He was on many appointment committees, in the hospital group, the region and further afield, and he took these very seriously. Even in his last illness his mind would turn back to appointments decided many years previously and their eventual consequences. Thanks to his commitment, and that of his colleagues, Bath developed one of the earliest provincial postgraduate centres and its reputation as a training centre made it much sought after by junior doctors.

David Pugh contributed a great deal to his hospital and his city at a crucial time of expansion in the medical services during the postwar decades. He carried his full share of administrative work, serving three years as chairman of the medical executive committee and five years on the old hospital management committee. At the College, he was a councillor 1972-75 and an examiner 1972-78.

David was dedicated to his work in Bath and was warm-hearted and loyal towards his friends, but the many pressures were not without an effect on his health and as a result he retired at the age of 63. Outside medicine and his family, his interests lay in music and fishing. He had two children, a son and a daughter, and there was a great celebration when his son caught his first salmon. There was also marital rivalry on the occasion of the annual Wales-Scotland rugby match which he and Betty frequently attended.

J Cosh

[Brit.med.J., 1990,300,188]

(Volume IX, page 430)

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