Lives of the fellows

James Parlane (Sir) Baird

b.12 May 1915 d.26 May 2007
KBE(1973) MB ChB Edin(1937) MRCP Edin(1946) FRCP Edin(1953) MD(1958) FRCP(1959)

Lieutenant General Sir James Parlane Baird was director general of the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was born at Burghead, Morayshire, Scotland, the son of the Reverend David Baird, a minister of the Church of Scotland, and Sarah Kathleen Baird née Black, the daughter of a farmer. He was educated at Bathgate Academy and studied medicine at Edinburgh University, graduating MB ChB in 1937 and gaining the Murdoch Brown medal.

He was a clinical assistant and a house physician at the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh. He then hoped to join the Royal Navy as a doctor, but was commissioned into the RAMC at the end of 1939. Initially he served with a field ambulance in Scotland, but in 1941 he went to the Middle East as regimental officer of the 11th Scottish Commando. Once this unit had been disbanded, he served with the 8th Army field medical units in the Western Desert and Sicily, being mentioned in despatches. Medical work in hospitals at Suez, Cairo and Malta followed, as a trainee and a graded physician.

After the war, he became a medical specialist at Aldershot, Wheatley and Chester. He occupied the post of adviser in medicine to the British troops in Austria until 1949, when he returned to the senior officers’ course at the Royal Army Medical College, gaining the Leishman and Catherine Webb prizes. From 1950 to 1951 he served with the United States Army Medical Corps as an exchange physician, at Brooke Army Hospital, Texas. He then served as a medical specialist at the Queen Alexandra Military Hospital, Millbank, and as an assistant professor of tropical medicine at the Royal Army Medical College. From 1958 to 1961 he was officer in charge of the medical division, British Military Hospital, Singapore. He was also an honorary consultant to the Singapore Chest Clinic and General Hospital, acting as an external examiner at the University of Singapore.

He returned to the Queen Alexandra Military Hospital as officer in charge of the medical division and as an assistant professor of military medicine at the Royal Army Medical College. In 1965 he was appointed as professor of military medicine at the Royal Army Medical College and the Royal College of Physicians. In May 1967 he became a consultant physician with the British Army of the Rhine, with the rank of brigadier and, in January 1969, director of Army medicine, with the rank of major general. In July 1971 he assumed the post of commandant and director of studies, Royal Army Medical College, London, and was appointed director general of the RAMC in April 1973, as a lieutenant general. While director general he fought resolutely against moves by the then government to cut the RAMC.

Baird became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in 1953 and of the London college in 1959. He was a lecturer in tropical medicine at Westminster, Middlesex and London Hospital medical schools, and was an examiner for the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, and in the diploma of tropical medicine and hygiene for the universities of London and of Edinburgh.

He wrote widely on medical subjects, and was co-author of Tropical diseases (Edinburgh, London, E & S Livingstone, 1968). He was also editor of the Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps.

In February 1969 he was appointed as the Queen’s honorary physician, and was knighted in 1973.

After he retired from the Army, in April 1977, he became medical adviser to the National Advice Centre for Postgraduate Education, and deputy director of the British Postgraduate Medical Federation.

Outside medicine he was a keen golfer and gardener.

In 1948 he married Anne Patrician Anderson, who predeceased him. They had a daughter, Fiona, and a son, Alastair.

RCP editor

[Lieutenant General Sir James Baird, CV and self-written biography, archive, RCP; The Times 6 June 2007; The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh – accessed 24 March 2014]

(Volume XII, page web)

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