Medicine in conflict: Philip Graham Stock in the Second Boer War

The RCP archives hold over 100 personal collections which give fascinating glimpses into the lives of our members. One such collection consists of turn of the century photographs belonging to Philip Graham Stock (1876–1975).

Stock studied medicine at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, graduating in 1900. He joined the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), who immediately sent him into a conflict zone.

8th Hussars in action in the Second Boer War. Photograph, c.1900.

In 1900 the British were engaged in the Second Boer War. Also called the South Africa War, it had started on 11 October 1899. This conflict was characterised by the guerrilla tactics employed by both sides. The British forces pursued a scorched earth policy of poisoning wells, destroying crops and killing livestock. They also interred most of the non-combatant Boer and non-white populations in disputed areas in concentration camps where overcrowding, poor sanitation and meagre supplies of food led to almost 50,000 deaths.

Boer girls. Photograph, c.1900.
Dwellings in eastern Transvaal. Photograph, c.1900.

Stock was a regimental medical officer with the 8th Hussars. For 2 years he delivered mobile medical services to military troops, often working very close to the front line.

The Second Boer War ended on 31 May 1902. Stock took a large number of photographs of his life and work during the conflict. This experience early in his medical career clearly had a huge impact on him. He kept these photographs throughout his life and even made some of them into a photo album and slide presentation. 

No. 2 stationary hospital, Elandsfontein. Photograph, c.1900.
Field hospital, Kaalfontein. Photograph, c.1900.

Stock stayed in South Africa until the outbreak of the First World War. He became medical officer of health of Johannesburg, and was responsible for the underground sanitation of the gold mines. In 1913 he was made director of medical services of the Union of South Africa.

After the First World War broke out in 1914 he returned to military medicine, organising the medical services for the force invading German South-West Africa. He introduced compulsory anti-typhoid inoculations for the entire force, which undoubtedly saved much sickness and many deaths. He returned to Europe in 1918, and served in France as an officer commanding a general hospital. He received the CB and CBE, and was mentioned in dispatches.

In peacetime Britain Stock worked for the Ministry of Health and, during the Second World War, was responsible for the health of the people in air raid shelters in London. The French government awarded him the Medaille de la Reconnaissance Francaise for his services to the Free French forces. Awarded to civilian foreigners who helped the French war effort, the medal was quite rare. He also became a part-time consultant to the World Health Organization (WHO), serving as chairman of the quarantine commission of their interim commission.

After a full career which was focused on public health and military medicine, Stock died on 27 December 1975. His widow presented this collection to the RCP in 1976, as Stock had been a fellow since 1937.

Pamela Forde, archive manager

  • Stock's fascinating collection is just one of many in the RCP archives, which document our history, our members and medical practice over the last 500 years.

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