Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation
Frederick Charles b: 24 Apr 1928 r: 24 Apr 1988 d: 3 Oct 2008
CB - 18 Jun 1986, OBE - 1 Jan 1970, CStJ - 13 Mar 1986, FFOM, MB, BS, MRCS, LRCP, FRAeS, DAvMed.
Fg Off: 27 Apr 1953, Flt Lt: 27 Apr 1954 [2 Jun 1953], Sqn Ldr: 2 Jun 1960, Wg Cdr: 2 Jun 1965, Gp Capt: 1 Jan 1975, A/Cdre: 1 Jan 1981, AVM: 1 Jul 1984
Photo - Courtesy Caroline Walker
27 Apr 1953: Appointed to a Short Service Commission in the Medical Branch (4 + 4)
xx xxx 1953: Medical Officer, RAF Moreton-in-Marsh
8 Oct 1954: Appointed to a Permanent Commission in the Medical Branch in the rank of Flight Lieutenant
xx xxx 1955: Medical Officer, RAF Tern Hill
xx xxx 1957: Senior Medical Officer?, RAAF Williamtown, (Exchange posting with the Royal Australian Air Force)
xx xxx 1959: Senior Medical Officer?, RAF Melksham
xx xxx 1961: Senior Medical Officer, RAF Scampton
xx xxx 1964: Senior Medical Officer, RAF Tengah.
19 Jul 1967: Staff Officer, Directorate-General of RAF Medical Services.
xx xxx xxxx: Medical Adviser to Inspector of Air Transport
xx xxx 1974: Deputy Director of Aviation Medicine
xx xxx 1978: Staff Officer Aerospace Medicine, British Defence Staff, Washington
xx xxx 1980: AOC, Princess Alexandra Hospital Wroughton
xx xxx 1982: Director of Health and Research
29 Sep 1984: Principal Medical Officer at RAF Strike Command
29 Sep 1984: Honorary Physician to the Queen
xx xxx 1986: Director-General of the RAF Medical Services
Freddie, the son of an English Army officer and a Spanish mother, was born in Guernsey in 1928. From the age of eight, having lost his father in 1933, he was educated at the Royal Masonic School, Bushey, where he excelled at hockey, rugby, cricket, water polo and athletics, playing rugby for England Schoolboys against Scotland and Wales.
He began his training at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, Paddington, in October 1946, as one of only six schoolboys among more than 50 demobbed ex-servicemen. While there he also boxed for the hospital as a middleweight. He qualified in 1952 and then worked at Paddington Green Children’s Hospital in both Medical and Surgical house positions, intending to become a paediatrician.
When he was called up to do his deferred National Service in 1953, he joined the RAF on a four-year short service commission, and subsequently served until 1988.
For 13 years Freddie served as Senior Medical Officer on a variety of operational flying stations in England, Australia and Singapore practising a mix of General Practice, Public Health, Occupational, Aviation and preventive medicine to service personnel and their dependants. His contact with aircrew engendered a deep interest in aviation medicine, and he learned to fly and accompanied aircrew whenever possible in order to better understand the physiological and psychological implications of the rapidly progressing technology of aviation. This involvement gained him great respect from pilots and aircrew.
From 1967 to 1988 he held primarily administrative posts covering diverse aspects of medical practice, policy and research within the Royal Air Force.
He was a medical advisor to the Inspector of Air Transport, with responsibilities for the supervision of work schedules and periods of duty time in addition to the development and inspection of appropriate facilities for feeding, sleeping, rest and recreation for RAF aircrew (the RAF Transport fleet at the time was larger and flew more passenger and freight schedules throughout the world than BEA and BOAC combined). He co-ordinated the RAF’s worldwide aero-medical evacuation service, which regularly moved more than 3,000 patients annually from all three services.
In 1970 Freddie was awarded the Chadwick Gold Medal and Prize for services to promoting health in the Armed Forces and was also honoured with an OBE. In 1972 he gained the Diploma in Aviation Medicine.
In 1974 he became the Deputy Director Aviation Medicine, responsible for monitoring the effects of training and operational flying on emotional and physical health. He worked closely with the RAF Institute of Aviation Medicine in areas of research and evaluated their advice to the air staff on the maintenance of a medically acceptable working environment for flying personnel. He also advised the Inspector of Flight Safety on the medical aspects of flying accident prevention and investigation, and acted as UK Co-ordinator for International and NATO aeromedical bodies.
In 1978 Freddie went to Washington DC as Staff Officer Aerospace Medicine on the Defence Staff of the British Embassy. He was responsible for maintaining a close liaison with US and Canadian service and civilian aviation authorities on medical aspects of aviation, and representing the UK philosophies in Human Factors and Life Support systems in meetings with the major research laboratories of the Service.
From 1980 to 1982 he was Officer Commanding Princess Alexandra Hospital, RAF Wroughton. This included the time of the Falklands War, when the hospital was the primary destination for returning casualties. There followed posts as Director of Health and Research and Principal Medical Officer, RAF Strike Command. In 1984 he was appointed Honorary Physician to The Queen, and in 1986 he became a CB and a Commander of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, as well as a Fellow of the Faculty of Occupational Medicine.
In 1986 Freddie became Director General RAF Medical Services in charge of an organisation employing 3,500 medical officers and medical ancillary personnel, responsible to the Air Force Board for the provision and administration of medical, dental and nursing care to more than 200,000 people, at home and abroad.
After his retirement from the RAF in 1988 Freddie spent seven years as Appeals Director for the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, trebling the value of the Fund during his tenure.
He was closely involved for the rest of his life with The Royal International Air Tattoo as a Vice President, and gave a tremendous amount of support to the Disabled Flying Scholarship scheme, using his expertise in the medical implications of flying as a forceful lobbying platform (He was a member of the panel who awarded this site's webmaster a flying scholarship in 1992).
During his career Freddie had added squash and sailing to his sporting accomplishments, winning the annual Round The Island Race during his posting in Singapore. After retirement he took up and enjoyed golf, playing until shortly before his death. He had also been a keen photographer all his life.
Freddie was a man of great energy and humour and tremendous integrity, liked and respected by all who knew him. He was devoted to his family and loved to spend his spare time at home in Surrey, maintaining the family house, tending the garden and spending time with his family.
Freddie Hurrell died at home from primary brain cancer.
My thanks to Caroline Walker, his eldest daughter, for the above obituary.
This page was last updated on 03/08/22©
D A Hurrell
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