Lives of the fellows

Edward Joseph Tucker Prettejohn

b.2 October 1919 d.26 November 2006
MRCS LRCP(1942) MB BChir Cantab(1943) MRCP(1948) FRCP(1974)

Edward Prettejohn was a consultant dermatologist for south Somerset for 24 years. He was born in Chulmleigh, north Devon, the son of Edward Henry Prettejohn, a farmer, and Ada Josephine née Tucker. He was brought up largely in the house of his grandparents: his grandfather, Joseph Tucker, was the village doctor. He attended Blundells School, where he was an accomplished sportsman, as well as a diligent and intelligent student. He represented Devon schoolboys at rugby in 1937 and was a strong middle and long distance runner. Throughout his life he remained firmly a countryman, reflecting his rural upbringing, which was distinctly Victorian in its character. He could ride, as he said, practically before he could walk. He also retained a lifelong love of sport, especially rugby and cricket, which he followed (critically) until his last days. As a boy he saw Donald Bradman bat.

He went up to Cambridge to read medicine, where he continued his rugby and athletics, representing Sidney Sussex at both rugby and cross country running, of which he was college captain in 1939. He was an exhibitioner in 1938 and a scholar in 1939.

He spent the early part of the war at the London Hospital, witnessing the severe bombing of the East End at uncomfortably close quarters. From 1943 to 1946 he served in the RAMC. A week after D-Day he crossed the channel to Arromanches and there began a torrid war experience which left a profound and permanent mark on him. He was officer in command of the 7th British field transfusion unit, engaged in what was, at that time, pioneering work treating often mortally wounded casualties in the heat of battle. According to his own written account in Normandy, he was at Jerusalem Cross Roads, La Belle Epine, Nornantes and Aunay sur Odon. He said later that the leafy countryside made him homesick for north Devon. After the break out, he was dive bombed at Eindhoven and spent some time around Nijmegen, where he was promoted to captain, before the Ardennes and then Germany.

After V E Day his war took a further psychologically difficult turn, when he was posted to the newly discovered concentration camp at Belsen. There he was in charge of the officers’ mess, with its palatial ballroom and minstrel’s gallery, now filled with surviving victims. As a relaxation from the horrors he rode the magnificent horses left by the Germans. Belsen was not an experience about which he ever said a great deal.

A spell in Brussels, at the Army blood supply depot HQ, where he organised a medical cricket team, brought his European war to an end. He then spent six months in Calcutta, largely in charge of the officers’ hospital in the former Japanese Consulate. He was mentioned in despatches in 1946.

After the war, he returned to the London Hospital for two years, from 1947 to 1949, and was then appointed as a senior registrar at Bristol. In 1954 he moved to Taunton as a consultant dermatologist, where he worked until his retirement in 1978.

He was a gentle, polite, intensely private and rather eccentric man who never knowingly participated in medical social or political life, or indeed social life of any kind! He married Sally in 1952 and was a devoted father to his only son, Nick. He was immensely proud of his grandchildren, Claudia and Viola.

Nick Prettejohn

(Volume XII, page web)

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