Paul Winchester Houghton

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 05 August 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c4214
  1. Mark Houghton

    Paul Houghton led a long, adventurous life. As a naval surgeon (surgeon lieutenant commander) in the second world war he saved the lives of two admirals and treated the badly wounded from Ark Royal.

    As the surgeon on board the flagship of the Malta convoys, HMS Nelson, Houghton found himself trapped below decks when the ship was torpedoed in the Mediterranean. “In the darkness I walked forward to feel if the watertight bulkhead was holding. After an hour I made the same journey; but this time I was walking back up a steep hill. Sometime later we heard a dreadful roaring over our heads. Then we heard the watertight door being opened for the wonderful release of daylight. We discovered the noise was my friend Commander Blundell at work. He saved the ship by organising the crew to winch and drag the enormous anchor chain from the front to the rear of the ship. This change of weights raised the bows until the torpedo hole was out of the water.”

    After the war Houghton was appointed consultant general surgeon in Worcester. On retiring at 65 he did a year’s locum for a urologist and then went for a year to All Saints Hospital in Transkei, South Africa. On return he served as surgical locum in the West Country and in a St Lucia mission hospital. At the age of 75 he went as surgical locum to the Nazareth Hospital, Israel.

    In January 1943 on the battleship Nelson, flagship of Force H, Houghton examined the South African-born Vice Admiral Neville Syfret in his sea cabin. Houghton found him looking ashen and diagnosed a burst appendix. Syfret had been in pain for four days and was ill with shock. Peritonitis had set in. Houghton decided to operate at once …

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