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James Caldwell Houston

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 25 September 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5188
  1. Alan Houston

Born in Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire, James Caldwell Houston (known universally as “George” to his work colleagues) moved to London aged 7, when his father was promoted to become the London manager of the Clydesdale Bank in Lombard Street.

He attended Mill Hill School as a dayboy and studied Spanish and French. He was awarded a scholarship to Oxford to read modern languages but decided that he would rather be a doctor and discussed this with his headmaster at Mill Hill, Mr Jacks, who, far from trying to change his mind, apparently said: “If you want to study medicine you must go to Guy’s.” He was forever grateful for this advice. Accordingly, he entered Guy’s Hospital Medical School as a first MB medical student in October 1934.

War service in the Blitz and India

He graduated in time to be told during the Blitz in 1940, with no experience of “gassing”: “You’re a Guy’s man, so you can give anaesthetics,” which he proceeded to do without any further training. He attended to severely injured people, once working for more than 48 hours without sleep. At one point, Guy’s, which had been evacuated to Greenwich, was hit by a bomb, and he was forced to crawl on hands and knees through a pitch black ward and felt a hole in the floor. He would have been killed had he fallen …

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