Thursday, 23 April 2015

A Heroic Doctor

King George greets wounded officers at a field hospital (Wellcome Images)
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Friday 23rd April 1915: Lieutenant Ernest Pipkin Stratford, R.A.M.C., M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P. of No.8, British Field Ambulance, Lahore Division of the Indian Expeditionary Force died at Bourne End on Tuesday from general septicaemia following a shell wound, and has been buried today with full military honours. Dr. Stratford was the only son of a highly respected old Leightonian, Mr. Samuel Pipkin.[1] He was born in 1876 and educated at Marlborough School, then Emmanuel and Downing Colleges, Cambridge, and St. Thomas’s and St. Mary’s Hospitals. After qualifying he worked as a medical officer to the West Ham Hospital for diseases of the nervous system. He saw service with Bethune’s Mounted Infantry in the South African War and reached the rank of Captain before being invalided home after the relief of Ladysmith. At this time who adopted his mother’s maiden name by deed poll.

Dr. Stratford volunteered early in the present war, working first as one of the surgeons at Netley Hospital, then as a surgeon specialist at the Bournemouth Hospital for Indian troops. At his own request he went to the front in charge of a British Field Ambulance. He had rigged up an impromptu hospital for the wounded in the village school near Neuve Chapelle. On 17th March shells began to fall around the school; many of the wounded men were killed but the doctor and his colleagues stuck to their work. The house next door caught fire and he and others went in to bring out the wounded. Another shell burst in the room, blowing Dr. Stratford through a wall. Part of the shell struck a finger on his left hand, but he took little notice of this minor wound. That night he performed several operations but there were no gloves to protect his hands and he contracted septic poisoning. After some days in hospital near Dieppe Dr. Stratford was invalided home. He appeared to be recovering but became suddenly ill on Tuesday and died at midnight. He leaves a widow but no children.

Sources: Leighton Buzzard Observer and Linslade Gazette 27th April 1915; St. Thomas’ Hospital Memorial List

[1] Samuel Pipkin appears to have been a self-made man. Born in 1847, he appears on the 1861 census as the son of a brewer’s journeyman in Leighton Buzzard. In 1873 he married Emma Stratford but Emma died in 1876 soon after her son’s birth. In 1881 the widowered Samuel was boarding in the house of a schoolmistress with his 6 year old daughter Kate and 4 year old Ernest and working as an insurance auditor. He subsequently married the schoolmistress and became an insurance manager. At the time of his son’s death he was living at Westbourne Terrace in West London. 

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