Lives of the fellows

Hubert Alan John Reay

b.19 March 1925 d.4 February 2012
KBE(1981) MB ChB Edin(1948) MRCP(1955) MRCP Edin(1955) DCH(1957) FRCP Edin(1968) FRCP(1973) RCPCH(1997)

Lieutenant General Sir Hubert Alan John Reay was director general of Army medical services. A pioneer of paediatrics within the RAMC, he recognised the need for an efficient medical service for the children of British Army personnel stationed all over the world. Born in Hednesford, Staffordshire, he was the son of John, a chaplain in the Army, and his wife, Emmeline Augusta née Lovell, whose father was a civil engineeer. His father served in the First World War and had been awarded the Military Cross. Educated at Bramcote Preparatory School and Lancing College, he studied medicine at Edinburgh University and the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary (ERI).

Qualifying in 1948, he did house jobs at the ERI and then joined the RAMC, initially to do his National Service. He served in Malaya from 1949 to 1952 as a medical officer attached to 1st Battalion the Devonshire Regiment and then with 16 Field Ambulance and was mentioned in despatches. Towards the end of 1952 he was given a regular commission as a captain and, for three years, was a trainee physician with the Royal Army Medical College at Millbank. He then spent two years as a clinical assistant at Great Ormond Street Hospital, where he developed a lifelong interest in paediatrics.

In 1957 he went to the USA and spent a year as an exchange physician (paediatrician) at the Brooke Army Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. This was followed by appointments as a command paediatrician to the Far East Land Forces in Singapore in 1962, and in Germany, in the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) in 1965. At the Cambridge Military Hospital in Aldershot he spent five years as a consultant in paediatrics and developed the specialty there to such an extent that Army paediatric cases throughout the world were referred to that hospital. When critics questioned the need for such a service, he would remind them that there were more dependent children under seven years old in the BAOR than there were soldiers. Following that posting, in 1977, he became commandant of the Royal Army Medical College at Millbank.

Director of medical services in the BAOR from 1979, he then took over as director general of Army medical services (DGAMS) in 1981 with the rank of lieutenant-general. The following year saw the outbreak of the Falklands War and Reay faced the challenge of increased demand on services while facing severe budget cuts, often finding himself at odds with his civil servants. He travelled out to the Falklands himself to debrief the medical teams and to carry out his own assessment of the speed with which badly injured men were attended to. He retired in 1985, having fought a spirited battle to preserve the role of an independent DGAMS which, sadly, he lost.

He was appointed honorary physician to the Queen in 1976 and knighted in 1981. After retirement he continued in an honorary post at Great Ormond Street, was president of the paediatric section of the Royal Society of Medicine, and chairman of the medical committee at the Royal Star and Garter Home. From 1992 to 1997 he was chair of Lambeth health care NHS trust. Chief honorary steward at Westminster Abbey from 1985 to 1997, he was heavily involved in the dean’s losing battle to retain the Stone of Destiny that normally lay under the Coronation Chair.

Outside medicine, he enjoyed reading, riding and foreign travel. For some years he was honorary treasurer of the Medical Art Society

In 1960 he married Ferelith Haslewood née Deane, whose father, William Wallace Blencowe Deane, was a lieutenant colonel in the Lancashire Fusiliers. She became an artist and celebrated printmaker. Lady Reay survived him, together with their two daughters and two sons, one son predeceased him.

RCP editor

[Daily Telegraph; The Independent; Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh; Wikipedia - all accessed 6 October 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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