Hugh de WardenerBMJ 2013; 347 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f6561 (Published 13 November 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6561
- Anne Gulland, London
Like many of his generation, Hugh de Wardener was reticent about the war. His colleagues only found out details of his experience when he spoke at a conference for veterans of the war in the Far East, facilitated by one of his former trainees, Air Commodore David Rainford.
De Wardener had just completed his medical training when war broke out and, after joining the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1941, was posted to Singapore, which fell to the Japanese just weeks after his arrival.
He was sent to Roberts Hospital at the Changi prisoner of war camp, where he was in charge of the dysentery wing. The disease was rife, and in 1942 the wing saw 12 000 cases. De Wardener, demonstrating the intellectual curiosity he retained throughout his life, questioned why some patients died and others, in the same physical shape, survived. He recognised that the symptoms among those who died—double vision, rapid eye movements, and confusion—were typical of Wernicke’s encephalopathy, a condition seen in alcoholics as a result of vitamin B1 …