Views & Reviews Past Caring

Peninsular derring do

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 18 March 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1058
  1. Wendy Moore, freelance writer and author, London
  1. wendymoore{at}

    The dangers and deprivations of battlefield surgery will always demand seemingly superhuman feats of courage. Yet the sheer derring do of the early 19th century army surgeon George Guthrie (1785-1856) seems culled straight from the pages of a Boy’s Own story.

    Apprenticed to a surgeon at the tender age of 13, Guthrie passed his College of Surgeons examination at 15 and, having lied about his age, promptly enrolled as a surgical assistant in the British army bound for Canada. Returning home in 1807, Guthrie averted disaster when he spied the English coast fast approaching and single handedly piloted the ship to safety.

    The following year he landed in Portugal with British troops, under the command of the …

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