Lives of the fellows

George Bernard Stratton

b.20 January 1918 d.5 March 1992
MRCS LRCP Lond(1939) MRCP(1946) FRCP(1969)

George Stratton was born in Southsea, the son of a colonial civil servant who was killed in France before his son was born. George was educated in Dorset at Sherborne and also at Bedford School. From there he went on to St Thomas’ Hospital. He was awarded the Tite scholarship in anatomy and physiology and qualified at the young age of 21. He then served as house surgeon and, later, house physician at Boscombe Hospital, Bournemouth.

In 1937 he met Joan, the daughter of a doctor, Robert Orr Colquhoun Thomson, and they were married in 1940 - the year in which he joined the RNVR. He served as a surgeon lieutenant aboard the destroyer HMS Lauderdale but had occasional shore postings when Joan joined him. Having lived near Portsmouth and become an experienced and venturesome dinghy sailor, he took his turn on watch while on his destroyer in addition to his expected medical responsibility. His ship was engaged in active convoy duties in the North Atlantic, from which George emerged to recount many humorous and also some sad stories. He took part in the D-Day landings in Normandy and was for a time attached to the Royal Marines. After he left the Navy at the end of the war, he sat for and obtained his membership of the College at the first attempt. He was briefly resident medical officer to the Royal Masonic Hospital before becoming, in 1947, physician to the Kent County Council at Dartford where he spent the next 45 years. When the National Health Service started in July 1948 he was appointed consultant physician.

George developed an interest in cardiology yet retained throughout his life his interest in general medicine; being much sought after as an opinion in all branches of medicine - particularly by other doctors. He was blessed with a wonderfully retentive memory and this, coupled with his wide experience, enabled him to produce some astonishing diagnostic tours de force while yet remaining a sound and reliable general opinion.

His career in hospital medicine at the beginning of the NHS inevitably involved him in committee work, which he carried out effectively with resolute cheerfulness. For many years he was vice-chairman of the Group medical committee and later was a member of the district medical team. For most of us, however, it seemed that the running of the hospital emanated from the West Hill Hospital lunch table, which was frequently enlivened by his sudden shafts of wit. Most of the important decisions were taken at this lunch table where he and his friend, Aubrey Watts - a surgeon - played a crucial role in forging the collective hospital spirit which was, in those days, such a notable feature of the Dartford hospitals.

In 1981 he was offered and accepted the appointment as chairman of the newly formed district health authority. This involved resignation from his post as consultant physician and a severance from his clinical interests. He did this for the good of the hospital but he missed the fun of a continuing clinical life. Nevertheless, he was at last able to see the way to achieving a single hospital as well as witnessing the completion of many improvements which he had sought for a number of years.

George’s interests were wide. He was an inveterate and successful solver of The Times crossword puzzle; on most days he would be in hospital at half-past eight in the morning to attend to his mail having virtually completed the daily puzzle. At one time he entered for The Times national competition and got as far as the London regional final. Over the years he also assembled a collection of pendulum driven electric clocks, which he repaired and maintained himself, having installed a fine metal lathe for the purpose. He enjoyed opera and sailing, and was also an active and very senior Freemason. Locally, he was a keen Rotarian and took an interest in St John’s Ambulance Brigade and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

George and Joan had a daughter Frances, now married, living locally and working in the hospital. Their son Jeremy lives in the United States. There are four grandchildren, two in England and two in America. Sometimes one felt that with his gifts George might have achieved greater eminence in the limited field of clinical medicine but he himself would not have wanted this if it had meant curtailing his work for his patients, the hospital, and the community in which he and Joan lived for 45 years. He will not be forgotten in Dartford where his kindness and humanity, coupled with a keen intelligence, won him a large and grateful public.

P C Farrant

[Brit.med.J., 1992,304,1564]

(Volume IX, page 503)

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