Wilmot Herringham

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Wilmot Parker Herringham
Sir Wilmot Herringham.jpg
Sir Wilmot Herringham
Born 17 April 1855
Died 23 April 1936
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Rank Major-General
Unit Royal Army Medical Corps
Battles/wars World War I

Sir Wilmot Parker Herringham KCMG CB (17 April 1855 – 23 April 1936) was a British medical doctor, academic and author. He was one of the first doctors to investigate the effect and treatment of poison gas in World War I.


Wilmot Parker Herringham was born at Guildford on 17 April 1855, the son of William Walton Herringham and Matilda Anne Parker. His father was a Prebendary of Wells Cathedral. He was educated at Winchester College.[1] He then matriculated at the University of Oxford in 1873 as a member of Keble College, studying classics. Whilst at Keble, he rowed for the college 1st VIII, played football for the 1st XI and captained the cricket team. He obtained a second-class degree in classics in 1877, and then studied medicine, obtaining his medical degrees in 1882.

He started his medical career at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, and was appointed consultant physician in 1904; he held this post until 1919. He was knighted in 1914, and advanced to Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in 1919; he was also made a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1915.

First World War service[edit]

At the outbreak of the First World War, Herringham was a lieutenant-colonel in command of the medical unit of the London University OTC.[1] Between 1914 and 1919, he was consultant physician to the British Forces in France in the Royal Army Medical Corps, initially as a Colonel and rising to the rank of Major-General in 1918.,[2] Herringham was already sufficiently well known that his army appointment was reported in the New York Times under the headline "Famous Doctors to Front".[3] He was mentioned in dispatches.[4] Sir Douglas Haig records in his diary a visit to a casualty clearing station where "I saw Sir Wilmot Herringham with his coat off, setting a fine example, by washing and attending to the slightly wounded cases".[5] Herringham was among the first doctors to examine the victims of the use of poison gas at the second Battle of Ypres.[6] He was one of the contributors to a report to Lord Kitchener, the British Secretary of State for War five days after the initial attack.[7] He continued to take an interest in the treatment of poison gas victims for the rest of the war. In his war memoirs, Herringham admitted that he learned more medicine during his time in France than in any other five-year period.[8]

Post-war career[edit]

Herringham stood as a candidate for parliament in 1918 for the London University seat.[4] He was offered the position of Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford in 1920, but refused, considering himself to be unsuitable to the post. He was Vice-Chancellor of the University of London between 1912 and 1915. He served as chairman of the General Nursing Council for England and Wales between 1922 and 1926, and was a member of the council of Bedford College, University of London, at the time a college for women. Between 1921 and 1929 he was chairman of the governors of the Old Vic[1][9] and wrote for theatre's magazine. In 1929 he delivered the annual Harveian Oration to the Royal College of Physicians. He was appointed an Honorary Fellow of Keble in 1931. He died on 23 April 1936 at his sister's home in Lymington.[2][4]


In 1880 he married Christiana Powell at Guildford. They had two sons, one of whom died from acute arthritis as a child whilst the other died in the First World War.[4] His wife became a celebrated Edwardian artist and patron of the arts. In 1906, Herringham accompanied her to India where on this and another visit, she made copies of the Buddhist cave paintings at Ajanta near Hyderbad, which were deteriorating badly.[10] Herringham contributed a brief description of their expedition to the published edition of the paintings.[11] By 1911, Herringham's wife suffered from delusions of pursuit and persecution and was admitted to an asylum, spending the rest of her life in mental institutions. In 1916, Herringham was cited as a co-respondent in a divorce case brought by William Rothenstein.[12]


In addition to numerous contributions to scholarly journals and medical textbooks, his publications include:

  • A Physician in France
  • History of the Great War, based on official documents: Medical Services
  • The life and times of Dr. William Harvey


  1. ^ a b c "Herringham, Sir Wilmot Parker". Who Was Who 1920–2008. Oxford University Press. December 2007. Retrieved 13 October 2009. (Subscription required (help)). 
  2. ^ a b Drennan, Basil St G., ed. (1970). The Keble College Centenary Register 1870 – 1970. Keble College, Oxford. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-85033-048-9. 
  3. ^ New York Times report 15 October 1914
  4. ^ a b c d British Medical Journal obituary
  5. ^ Douglas Haig The Private Papers of Douglas Haig (Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1952,p. 154)
  6. ^ Herringham W. "DISCUSSION ON GAS-POISONING". Proc R Soc Med. 13: 31–6. PMC 2151996Freely accessible. PMID 19981534. 
  7. ^ Report to Lord Kitchener
  8. ^ Whitehead, Ian. The British Medical Officer on the Western Front: The Training of Doctors for War. Rodopi. p. 165. 
  9. ^ W. J. O'Connor, British physiologists 1885-1914: a biographical dictionary (Manchester University Press, 1991)
  10. ^ Mary Lago, Christiana Herringham and the Edwardian art scene (University of Missouri Press, 1995, p. 226)
  11. ^ Ajanta Frescoes by Lady Herringham
  12. ^ National Archives

See also[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Sir William Job Collins
Vice-Chancellor of the
University of London

Succeeded by
Sir Alfred Pearce Gould KCVO CBE