Lives of the fellows

Philip Graham Stock

b.1 April 1876 d.27 December 1975
CB(1918) CBE(1919) CMG(1947) MRCS LRCP(1900) DPH Eng(1906) MB BCh Bristol(1910) Hon FRCSE(1919) MRCP(1932) FRCP(1937) JP Wits SA(1908)

Philip Graham Stock - ‘P.G.’ to his intimates - was bom at Clifton, Bristol, the son of Granger Stock of Bristol, who was a sugar importer whose family had followed that occupation for many generations. His mother’s maiden name was Esther Carter. He was educated at Clifton School, Bristol University and the Bristol Royal Infirmary from which he graduated in 1900, and immediately joined the RAMC and went out to South Africa, where he was appointed Regimental Medical Officer with the 8th Hussars. Sir George Godber, in an obituary notice in the British Medical Journal, recounts how, at a lunch celebrating his 97th birthday, Stock described his feelings on first coming under fire ‘at a date when none of his hearers had been born’! [In accordance with his wishes, his widow has given his fascinating collection of photographs and slides of the Boer War to the College, together with a note book containing case-notes and plans of field hospitals. His War Diaries have been given to the Imperial War Museum, at their request.]

From the end of that war until 1914 he remained in South Africa as one of Milner’s ‘bright young men’, holding various medical posts, including Medical Officer of Health of Johannesburg and, in 1913, Director of Medical Services of the Union of South Africa. He had gained exceptional experience in organizing the health services in a rapidly growing community - an experience which ranged from the underground sanitation of the mines to curbing the activities of two rascals who were vaccinating communities frightened by the approach of a smallpox epidemic - with condensed milk!

After the outbreak of the 1914-18 war, he organized the medical services for the force invading German South-West Africa (Official Medical History of the War, Vol. 1). He not only persuaded the commander, General Botha, to order compulsory anti-typhoid inoculations for the whole force but, anticipating opposition, he induced the reluctant Botha to be the first to be inoculated, publicly on parade. This mass inoculation must have saved much sickness and many deaths.

Towards the end of the South West African campaign, Stock was sent to Europe to organize medical services for the South African contingent, but was recalled urgently in 1917 to German East Africa where casualties from disease were very high. After re-organizing the medical services there, he returned to Europe in 1918. He served in France as Officer Commanding a General Hospital and as Medical Adviser on Native Labour, and was a member of the Inter-Allied Sanitary Conference 1917-18, receiving the CB and CBE, and being admitted to the Hon. Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, which he greatly appreciated. He was also mentioned in despatches.

In 1920 Sir George Newman persuaded him to join the newly-formed Ministry of Health, and he became a Deputy Senior Medical Officer in 1935 and a Senior Medical Officer in 1940. He had been lured from South Africa, it was said - though not by him - with promises of quick and high promotion, but this did not occur, although typically he was never embittered by it; and he retired under the age limit during the second world war in 1941, immediately rejoining as a temporary Medical Officer.

Between the wars, he carried out many tasks of an epidemiological nature, but his man interest was in Port Sanitary work, as it was then termed, and its cognate subjects, international quarantine and the International Conventions concerning it. For many years, Stock was among the few leading world experts on this subject. Notably he represented South Africa at the twice-yearly meetings in Paris of the Office Internationale d’Hygiene Publique (the ‘Paris Office’) (Goodman, N M, International Health Organisation. 2nd ed,. 1971. Livingstone. Pps. 71, 76,90, 93, 145), and chaired the preliminary committee in London which replaced the International Sanitary Conventions of 1926, and the International Sanitary Convention for Aerial Navigation of 1933, with the new International Sanitary Conventions of 1944. Stock himself wrote: The 1944 Conventions were prepared under considerable difficulties and were a definite attempt to strengthen the existing conventions in anticipation of some of the difficulties which may face the United Nations. Unlike most of the earlier conventions, their preparation has not waited until pestilence was already in our ports, docks and cities.’ (Monthly Bull. of Min. Health & Emergency Lab. Service. 1945. 4. 72)

He also chaired an expert commission of UNRRA in the summer of 1944 on the health of ‘displaced persons’, with the result that the health of the displaced persons was better than that of the countries in which they were located, and no serious epidemics occurred among them.

During the second world war, doctors in the Ministry of Health were allocated by the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Wilson Jameson, to a wide variety of temporary tasks. Inter alia. Stock was responsible for the health of the people in air-raid shelters in London, and here again striking success was achieved, the absence of epidemics being greatly furthered by the evacuation of children when the bombing started.

A minor but intriguing problem concerned with the health of those using the Underground railway system as a bomb shelter was solved by Stock, with the help of P.G. Shute, the Ministry’s expert on mosquitoes. They tracked down a species of mosquito (Culex molestus) which had long bred unnoticed in waste water in the London Underground, but which vastly increased and became a serious nuisance when the Tubes were used as air-raid shelters. Drainage and oiling of the waste water between the rails and in the sumps of disused lifts ended the nuisance (Monthly Bull. of Min. Health & Emergency Lab. Service. Feb. 1951, p. 38). Stock also chaired a Committee on Louse Infestation which, incidentally, tried to enlist the help of well-known actresses and film stars to set a fashion of wearing short hair.

At the end of the war he retired, and the French Government awarded him the Médaille de la Reconnaissance Française in silver for his services to the Free French forces. This medal was awarded to civilian foreigners who had helped the French war effort, and is quite rare.

After he left the Ministry of Health, he acted as a part-time consultant to the World Health Organisation. He served as chairman of the Quarantine Commission of the Interim Commission of WHO. He accompanied the Director-General of WHO, Brock Chisholm, on an extensive tour of tropical Africa, and he spent most of 1952 working and travelling with Dr. Ralph Bunch, helping him with an important Report on the Trusteeship Territories.

He retired with his wife to Ramsbury, near Marlborough in Wiltshire, where he was known to everyone as "Colonel Stock" and greatly respected and beloved. After retirement he continued as a consultant to the World Health Organisation and chaired its important Committee on Quarantine and carried out occasional missions on WHO’s behalf, for example to West Africa.

On his own subject of quarantine and port health, he was unsurpassed. The situation was continually changing, as he was quick to recognize, e.g. from the increased risks brought about by the much greater quantity and speed of air travel, and he was always ready to accept the need for changes in the international regulations. His long and varied experience, equable temper, courtesy and judicious mind made him an ideal chairman of international committees, and his own views were invariably sound, practical and neither ahead nor behind the prevailing situation. Wise and serene, rather than brilliant, his placid temperament can be illustrated by the fact that, when he retired in 1944 on reaching the age limit and continued to serve as a temporary Medical Officer, he never had a misunderstanding or a cross word with his successor (the writer) who the day before had been his assistant.

‘Brilliant’ is not the adjective of choice but - far more important in a medical administrator - he was what the French call ‘un homme sérieux’ and we call ‘a sound man’; above all, he had ‘aequanimitas'.

Only once did I see him show real anger. A survey of the sanitary work in a certain port in South Wales had revealed gross laxity and corruption. The Chief Port Sanitary Inspector had been issuing international dératisation certificates to any skipper who would give him a bottle of whisky, and my report ended with the sentence ‘The only honest member of the Port Medical Officer’s staff is the ratcatcher’s bitch - and she is incompetent.’ The Port Medical Officer was summoned to Whitehall to get a well-deserved wigging and had fortified himself against it at lunch in a way which was obvious to the nose as soon as he entered Stock’s room. Stock’s handling of him was a revelation to me and he left the room a sadder, wiser and more sober man.

He was twice married, his first marriage ending in divorce, after he returned from the First World War. He married again in 1934 Frances Marie Louise (‘Vi’) Feuchelle, the daughter of Hugh Feuchelle of the Piazza di Spagna, Rome, and of Totteridge, near London. Her father was a director of various companies dealing with public utilities in Italy, financed by London Finance Houses. There were no children of either marriage, but he was devoted to his nephew, J. Peter Pendrell Stock, FRCP (q.v.), whose early death when he was a consultant cardiac physician at Stoke-on-Trent, greatly saddened him.

His chief interests were in cultivating the garden and tending the conservatory of his charming small modem house with its splendid views across the valley; and in the people and their doings in the village of Ramsbury. He retained this interest up to his last illness when he entered Savernake Hospital, of whose committee he had been a member for many years, dying 95 days short of his 100th birthday.

In sum, if one should wish to give an example of a ‘gentleman’ in the oldest and best sense of the word, of all one’s acquaintance P.G. Stock would first come to mind.

NM Goodman

[, 1976, 1, 160; Lancet, 1975, 1, 103; Times, 30 Dec 1975]

(Volume VI, page 419)

<< Back to List