History and its relevance to contemporary and future Military Medicine

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


This presentation will be a personal reflection on the relevance of history in the understanding of contemporary and future military medicine. I served 34 years in the UK Defence Medical Services (DMS), culminating my career as the Surgeon General and head of the DMS. I have published papers on the historical aspects of military medicine at key phases in my career: when I undertook research into the prevention of heat illness; in preparation for taking up command of a field hospital; as part of campaign planning for medical collaborations in Afghanistan; in teaching medical planning at the strategic level; and examining command and control arrangements for the Defence Medical Services in the future. Since leaving the DMS, I have examined the history of the relationship of health and the Army, the evolution of first aid in the British Army, and the lessons from the Korean War for contemporary military medical support. I have also attempted to record my contemporary experience in sources and resources that should be accessible to scholars of the future.

My presentation will use selected elements from these case examples to illustrate how an understanding of the past informed my analysis of challenges that I faced. I will argue that the critical analysis of the history of military medicine should be an essential element of professional education to set an understanding for contemporary issues and to forecast likely challenges for the future. Indeed, by recognising similarities across time, it is possible to learn from the experiences of our predecessors rather than repeating their mistakes.
Period14 Sept 2023
Event titleBritish Society for the History of Medicine Annual Congress
Event typeConference
LocationCardiff, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational