Obituary: Frank d'Abreu

Frank d'Abreu gave unstinted service for 23 years to Westminster Hospital and Medical School.

D'Abreu was a skilful, delicate, gentle and speedy surgeon with whom anaesthetists liked to work - a good recommendation. He was not an "academic" but full of sound clinical judgement. Above all he had the surgical equivalent of "green fingers" so that patients did well even when the complexities of the surgery were great. In no way a prima donna in the operating theatre, he had an idiosyncratic way of challenging his assistants to prevent any mishap - a method of teaching shaped by his puckish humour.

D'Abreu's other great interest was the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth, of which he was an Honorary Surgeon from 1950. He was a lifelong Roman Catholic and to this small hospital in St John's Wood, north London, run by the Sisters of Mercy, he gave generously of his time and expertise. At the time of his appointment it was a small independent charitable hospital with its own nurse-training school, a casualty department and a 24-hour emergency admission service - which put potentially huge demands on the consultant surgeons. The hospital took in patients of every religion and none - but it had in those days a special commitment to the clergy of the Archdiocese of Westminster. D'Abreu gave freely of his time and expertise in their care and treatment for many years.

The son of a Birmingham doctor, d'Abreu was born in 1904 and educated at Stonyhurst College, in Lancashire. When he left in 1922 he was Head of the Line (headboy), captain of both cricket and rugby and a natural for any sport he tackled. His interest in the field led to his becoming a member of the Board of Management of the Institute of Sports Medicine.

After graduation from Birmingham University he proceeded to Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1932. From 1934 to the outbreak of the Second World War he held registrar posts at St Bartholomew's and Westminster hospitals, in London. Already a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps (Supplementary Reserve), he was soon called up and served throughout, finishing as Lieutenant-Colonel in South-East Asia Command.

In 1945 he married Ann Bowes-Lyon (a cousin of the Queen Mother), and a year later was appointed a consultant surgeon to Westminster Hospital. To this hospital and its medical school he gave service for the next 23 years. He was also an examiner in surgery at the Universities of Cambridge and London and a member of the Court of Examiners of the Royal College of Surgeons. Later he was to become medical adviser and examiner to the Jockey Club.

He was always supportive of the students, especially in their sporting activities. Rugby, and especially the Inter-Hospital Championship, was his obsession and one which undoubtedly helped the Westminster team to rise to great heights in the late Fifties. Never was a match played but he could be seen up and down the touchline encouraging, cajoling and even swearing at his team. At other times, when challenged, he would perform the unusual feat of standing on his head whilst drinking a glass of beer - to the delight of his students.

Philip King

Francis Arthur d'Abreu, surgeon: born 1 October 1904; Consultant Surgeon, Westminster Hospital 1946-69 (Emeritus); Honorary Surgeon, Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth, St John's Wood 1950-69 (Emeritus); married 1945 Ann Bowes-Lyon (one son, two daughters); died 16 November 1995.

ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform