Peter Michael Roemmele

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 10 April 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:839
  1. Ailbe Beirne

    Peter was born in Osterley, in the London suburbs, on 28 July 1920, the youngest son of a former immigrant, a German speaking general practitioner, and a nurse from County Donegal. Educated at Haileybury, an austere boarding school, he excelled academically and was a rower, champion shot at Bisley, a school chorister, developing a lifelong love of classical music.

    Early holidays were spent in Connemara, where his father had a fishing lodge, and from the age of 4 he developed an enthusiasm for fishing, which was to play an important part in his adult life.

    After school Peter went to Edinburgh University to study medicine, graduating in 1943, ahead of others in his year, and he was the recipient of the rarely awarded Anndale gold medal for clinical surgery.

    He graduated in 1943, and joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a surgeon lieutenant. He went to Chatham Barracks for basic and naval training. He was posted to New York, sailing on the SS Queen Mary, and there stationed in a hotel named HMS Asbury. From there he was posted to Norfolk, Virginia, and joined a flight of mini LCIs (landing craft for infantry). He was on LCI 391 and served in Bermuda and the Azores, and was heading for Sicily when orders were changed to attack the Germans in northern Europe and not the south, which had been Churchill’s preference. They disembarked at Falmouth and had a weekend at home in Osterley.

    Following this he went up to the Admiralty and was posted to Clyde, and the MV Empire Anvil, a ship of the Blue Star line. The Empire Anvil was to take part in the D Day landings at Omaha beach. From its anchorage 12 little boats, each with a 100 men, attacked in three waves taking some three to four thousand men, and the beach was secured.

    They were paid off in Liverpool in September 1943, and Peter again went to the Admiralty and was appointed to Potter Heigham, from where he went (via the Panama canal) to Nawra (near Sydney). The plan had been to hop from South Australia to Japan to give medical aid to the troops, but the atom bomb was dropped, Japan surrendered, and everyone celebrated.

    After disengaging in Liverpool, Peter returned to Edinburgh and civilian life. He desired to be a surgeon but wanted medical experience, which he got in a small general hospital and in the Astlie Ainslie, where he also studied for his fellowship, and then proceeded to the Royal, from where he gained the FRCSEd. In February1948 he married Jess after a fortuitous vacancy in Stornaway for a surgeon and a physiotherapist allowed them to gain a double appointment. During the time on Lewis their first child was born.

    Peter returned to a surgical post in Great Yarmouth, which he combined with research on skin grafting of ulcers (but never published). A mentor suggested that he look in the Lancet for a post in surgery. Peter was appointed to the Roe Valley Hospital, Limavady, in 1955.

    Times were changing in Northern Ireland, and saw Peter adapting from the singlehanded, widely experienced general surgeon in a small cottage hospital to having to provide emergency surgery in Altnagelvin Area Hospital, 17 miles from home. He was also appointed to the Waterside, the City Hospital, and St Columb’s in Londonderry. He was on duty every Friday night in Altnagelvin from 1967 until his retirement in 1982, in addition to his 24/7 duties in the Roe Valley Hospital.

    He is remembered by the people of Limavady for his kindness, his dedication, and his modesty and as one of life’s gentlemen.

    During his 25 year retirement he tended and loved his two and half acre garden, painted in water colours, fished, and travelled. He died peacefully at home from lung cancer on 3 October 2007.

    He is survived by his beloved wife of 59 years, Jessie; two sons, Michael and Jeff, and a daughter, Biddy; and six grandchildren.


    • Former consultant surgeon Roe Valley Hospital, Limavady, and North West Group Altnagelvin (b 1920; q Edinburgh 1943; FRCS), died from lung cancer on 3 October 2007.

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