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Reginald Watson-Jones (1902-72)

Reginald Watson-Jones was born in Sussex and brought up in Liverpool, where he studied medicine. He became a key figure in military surgery during the Second World War.

Watson-Jones was an orthopaedic surgeon who specialised in fractures. He was appointed Civilian Consultant in Orthopaedic Surgery to the Royal Air Force early in the Second World War. Though he did not enter the military, he persuaded a younger surgeon, H Osmond-Clarke, to enter the services so Watson-Jones could find out about what was going on. Watson-Jones had direct access to the Minister for Air, which made his job much easier.

He established an orthopaedic rehabilitation service for the RAF, and designed programmes where rehabilitation would start as soon as possible - within a few days of surgery and overseen by a group of doctors, nurses and physiotherapists. Once they were recovered from surgery, RAF personnel were sent to specialist centres to undertake rehabilitation by exercise and sport, including football (one of them is now Loughborough University). The system established by Watson-Jones returned 77% of personnel to full combat duty and only 4.8% were invalided or discharged out of the services. As a result of his service to the RAF he received a knighthood in 1945. He was instrumental in organising the purchase of Headley Court in Surrey, which is still open today as a rehabilitation centre and is the focus of fundraising for disabled ex-servicemen.

 

Bibliography

‘In Memoriam: Reginald Watson-Jones 1902-1972’, The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 54B/4 (November 1972), pp 1591-1592

Glossary:

Orthopaedics

The branch of medicine concerned with the preservation and restoration of the muscular and skeletal systems in the body.

Physiotherapy

Exercise helpful to those with physical illness, for example stroke, or back injuries. A physical therapist is a specialist trained in using exercise and physical activities to condition and improve muscles.