OMNIA Spring/Summer 2020

Page 72



Issue 07 Spring/Summer 2020


DR BRIAN SETH-SMITH (OC 1939 – 1945)

Born 6 January 1928, Brian Seth-Smith died in Guernsey on 11 January 2019, having worked there for many years as Guernsey’s only orthopaedic surgeon. When he first came to Guernsey in May 1960, 15 years after the German Occupation ended, there were only five surgeons and five small general practices in the islands – there are many more doctors now. Brian was born in Croydon and grew up in Caterham, attending Caterham School as a boarder, where he remembers having extremely happy school times – in particular watching German planes flying overhead during the nights in the Second World War. He had two elder brothers, Ken and Jack, and a sister Margaret. Brian was deeply hurt by the loss of his beloved older brother Ken who was a test pilot, early in the Second World War. He qualified as a doctor in the London Hospital in Whitechapel. In the 1950s, as a surgeon serving in the RAF, he was stationed at RAF Hospital Ely in Cambridgeshire, where he cared for and accompanied polio victims in iron lungs from Europe and the Middle East. He went next to Iraq where there was a large British airfield serving the Middle and Far East and staffed with RAF officers and their families. He then travelled to Sri Lanka

where again there was a large RAF station. His skills were much needed, caring for Sri Lankans, RAF staff and their families. Indeed, as the plane touched down on the airfield, he was told he had to perform a caesarean section on the local Commander’s wife. On returning recently to Sri Lanka he was pleased to see that the huts of his old station were standing next to Colombo airfield. He returned from Sri Lanka to work as a surgeon at the London Hospital carrying out chest and heart surgery. From his time in the RAF he developed a variety of surgical skills that equipped him well for his work in Guernsey. Brian came to the island soon after his marriage to Jennifer O’Neill whom he met at the Royal London Hospital where she was working as a theatre nurse. He came to Guernsey because he had met a friend of his family at the Royal College of Surgeons in London who told him that Guernsey needed a surgeon. He and Jennifer intended to stay for two years – he stayed for 60. Brian joined a GP practice headed by Dr Sidney Heard and for some years he worked as a busy GP and as a surgeon. Being a GP meant that he quickly got to know his way around the island’s many unnamed winding country lanes, and met many of its people. He soon found that being a surgeon was not compatible with also being a GP, and he subsequently qualified to undertake both orthopaedic and urology surgery. Over the years the doctors on the island became specialised into separate specialties of gynaecology, obstetrics and anaesthetics, physicians and different branches of surgery. This led in 1992, to the creation of The Medical Specialist Group which separated specialist’s work from general practices at around the time Brian retired, thus he was not a part of the new system. Brian served on many of the island’s hospital committees, redesigning the Princess Elizabeth Hospital, planning for the future of the Guernsey Health Service and for the care of an evolving population. He was a chair of the

British Medical Association group and later in his career he led the local branch of the British Heart Foundation creating a fundraising team of outstanding success. He also helped contribute to the high quality postoperative cardiac care that is still available in Guernsey. Brian was very much loved and highly respected by the local community. He was a very approachable and warm person who was always interested in others and in trying to better the lives of others through his work. In 1984 Brian and Jennifer spent some months in Kenya where they worked in a rural area and in Mombasa on a doctors’ exchange which they much enjoyed. After retirement, Brian enjoyed a time working for the Guernsey Health Service as a medical assessor for those who applied for States support and continued his contributions to various charities on the island. Brian had a long and happy retirement made enjoyable by the company of very many close friends and his family. He met up with the retired doctors once a week for lunch and medical talk, which he helped to organise. He was active in his local community and had a great love of music, sailing, DIY, gardening, politics, speaking and learning French and a wide reading interest. He had a lifelong love of flying which was engendered by his brother Ken. He was proud to have contributed so much to Guernsey’s Health Service and loved the island. He was also proud to be a Caterham old boy and enjoyed attending school reunions meeting up with his old friends into his very late years. Those who met Brian found him an intensely thoughtful, interested, sensitive, intelligent, gentle and warm person. He is deeply missed by those who knew and loved him. Brian is survived by Jennifer and his two daughters Fiona and Elaine and his son James and six granddaughters. ■ Written by his wife Jennifer