Lives of the fellows

Eric Wordley

b.8 April 1887 d.6 November 1961
MC(1916) MB BCh Cantab(1913) MD Cantab(1923) MRCS LRCP(1912) MRCP(1918) FRCP(1936)

Eric Wordley was the only son of Thomas Wordley, a businessman in the City of London, and Edith Laura, née Corsby. He was educated at Aldenham School, Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and St. Thomas’s Hospital. At St. Thomas’s he held various resident appointments, but joined the R.A.M.C, immediately war broke out and was in France with the B.E.F, before the end of August 1914. He believed that he was the first civilian doctor to go to the Front and of this he was proud. He took part in the retreat from Mons with the 11th Hussars, and later was attached to the 9th Devons. Early in 1916 he was awarded the Military Cross. At the end of 1916 he was invalided home with trench fever, and was later appointed pathologist at the Great Central Hotel, Marylebone, at that time a hospital for officers, a post he held till the end of the war when he returned to St. Thomas’s Hospital, at first as medical registrar and then as assistant bacteriologist under Professor Dudgeon.

In 1922 he moved to Plymouth at the invitation of Dr Bertram Soltau, F.R.C.P., to start and administer a pathological laboratory at the South Devon and East Cornwall Hospital. There he worked for thirty years till his retirement in 1952. It is a measure of his administrative ability that whereas in his first year at Plymouth 700 examinations were made, in his last year there were 55,000, although the accommodation provided had not been extended. Wordley’s war experience had made him something of a martinet with a clear appreciation of essentials. He possessed a shrewd brain and a somewhat formidable veneer of brusqueness and intolerance which enabled him to drive his devoted staff hard, and to eliminate everything superfluous. Should an unwary resident submit an unnecessary request he was liable to be summoned to a painful but most educational interview. Senior members of the staff were by no means immune, for Wordley was no respecter of persons; but anyone with a genuine problem could be sure of unstinted help and encouragement, supported by wide knowledge and experience. An able clinician as well as a sound pathologist, Wordley supervised a full share of medical beds while his colleagues were absent on service during the Second World War, and undertook air-raid duties in the heavy bombing of Plymouth.

Only those who knew him best could fully appreciate his charm, wide culture, sense of humour and varied enthusiasms and interests. For many years he was a keen and very good golfer. When stiffened by rheumatism he delighted in his rough shoot, and in small-boat sailing at St. Mawes in Cornwall, to which he had retired.

In 1919 he married Madeline Alice Waterhouse, daughter of a solicitor in Wolverhampton; they had two daughters and one son.

Richard R Trail

[, 1961, 2, 1503; Lancet, 1961, 2, 1154.]

(Volume V, page 459)

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