Lives of the fellows

Robert Goudie MacFarlane

b.1 March 1917 d.19 March 2011
MBE(1952) MB ChB Glasgow(1940) MD(1955) MRCP Edin(1957) FRCP Edin(1964) MRCP(1970) FRCP(1979)

Major general Robert MacFarlane was director of Army medicine. He was born in Glasgow, the son of Archibald Forsyth MacFarlane, a company director, and Jessie Robertson née Goudie. He attended Hillhead High School and then went to Glasgow University, graduating in 1940 and winning the prize for paediatrics. He stayed in Glasgow for his house posts, with Geoffrey Fleming [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p.136] at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children and with Charles Illingworth at the Western Infirmary.

In 1941 he was commissioned into the RAMC and was posted to 154 Field Ambulance, part of 29th Independent Infantry Brigade. His unit was deployed to Madagascar, to secure the port and anchorage of Diego Suarez. A 50-bed field hospital was landed with its equipment and was staffed by six RAMC doctors. With a lack of suitable netting, about a third of the brigade, including MacFarlane, caught malaria. He also caught dengue fever and spent a few days on the hospital ship Atlantis.

In January 1943, the unit was sent to India. MacFarlane was posted to British Military Hospital (BMH) Delhi as a general duties medical officer and then spent a few weeks as a medical officer at the Red Fort. He rejoined 154 Field Ambulance in Assam in the autumn of 1944 and was involved in the pursuit of the retreating Japanese. The conditions were harsh. The roads were primitive, rutted and very muddy, and the main transport was by mule. Food supplies were dropped by plane, and MacFarlane was fortunate to escape injury when, while sitting beside his tent one morning, a sack of bread missed him by inches. He was not so fortunate in early September 1944, when he was accidentally shot through both legs, requiring him to be evacuated by rail.

Following the surrender of the Japanese and the end of the Second World War, MacFarlane was posted to Cowglen Military Hospital, Glasgow, with various short postings to Carnwadric Psychiatric Hospital and to Inverness as a staff captain at Highland District. In February 1947 he was sent on the RAMC senior officer’s course at Millbank, London. During the late 1940s and early 1950s he was posted to Egypt and Malta. In January 1957, he returned to the UK to attend a postgraduate course at Edinburgh University. He sat and passed his membership of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in the summer of 1957.

In September 1960 he was appointed to command the Army chest centre at Hindhead, Surrey, and in July 1962 he was posted to BMH Cyprus (Dhekelia) as a senior specialist in medicine. In 1965 he was posted to the Cambridge Military Hospital, Aldershot, as officer in charge of the medical division. Three years later, he became commanding officer of BMH Iserlohn in Germany.

In February 1970, he was appointed professor of military medicine at the Royal Army Medical College, Millbank, and Royal College of Physicians, London. In February 1972 he was appointed as a consultant physician at the headquarters of the British Army of the Rhine, and in March 1973 was appointed director of Army medicine and consultant physician to the Army, and was appointed as an honorary physician to HM the Queen. In January 1975 he retired from the Army to become deputy secretary to the Scottish Council for Postgraduate Medical Education in Edinburgh.

He retired from the council in late 1984 and in March 1985 was appointed as a civilian medical practitioner with the Army at Sennelager in Germany. He finally retired in 1988 at the age of 71.

He married Mary Campbell Martin in December 1945. His wife predeceased him. They were survived by their three sons.

David MacFarlane

[The Telegraph 27 April 2011 www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/medicine-obituaries/8478550/Major-General-Robert-MacFarlane.html – accessed 13 June 2011; The Herald 6 May 2011 www.heraldscotland.com/comment/obituaries/maj-gen-robert-macfarlane-1.1099849 – accessed 13 June 2011; The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh www.rcpe.ac.uk/publications/obituaries/2011/macfarlane.php – accessed 13 June 2011]

(Volume XII, page web)

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