Obituary: Margaret Fleming, wartime surgeon, 101

Dr Margaret Fleming

Dr Margaret Fleming

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Wartime surgeon Margaret Fleming, whose skills in the operating theatre were crucial to the maimed and wounded returning from the tumult of D-Day, has died aged 101.

Born in Edinburgh before the outbreak of the First World War, Margaret found herself, just a generation later, propelled into the maelstrom that followed one of the 20th century’s most epic events as the world was embroiled in battle once again.

Having graduated with a medical degree a couple of years into the Second World War, she was working as a doctor at the Gogarburn wartime emergency hospital when she was called up by the Royal Army Medical Corps to form part of a mobile medical team.

Margaret left Edinburgh on the eve of D-Day and treated the returning casualties of the Normandy invasion, serving as an assistant surgeon during amputations and operations to treat the bullet wounds suffered by troops who had taken part in the mission known as Operation Overlord.

Margaret, whose skills and expertise were vital to the clearing stations, went on to become a GP and reach her century.

The daughter of a medical family – her father, William Walker, was doubly qualified as a doctor and dentist and mother Jessie was a nurse – she was born at their home in Inverleith Row which also served as her father’s practice.

After being educated initially by a governess, she attended the Capital’s St Denis School where she became head girl. At one time she had hoped to train as a nurse but decided instead on medicine, despite never having had the chance at school to study any of the sciences.

However, her father encouraged her not to go straight into a medical degree and gave her the option of having a year abroad at a finishing school or taking and arts degree.

She opted for the latter, studying subjects including French which was to prove a practical advantage when treating wounded French soldiers.

She graduated with an MA from Edinburgh University in 1938 and then, following a crash course in science, embarked on her medical studies, graduating MBChB in 1941.

From there she went to Gogarburn where part of the facilities had been turned over to become an emergency hospital dealing with surgical cases from the forces.

After the war ended she married John Fleming in Edinburgh in 1946. The couple, who were married for almost 60 years, moved to Gosforth in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

By the 1960s she was working as a GP, combining the job with the role of mother to their son, Charles.

Margaret, who retired at the age of 64, had many interests outside work, including Scottish history, and was a member of the Saltire Society.

Predeceased by John, whom she had cared for at home for several years after he developed Alzheimers’, she is survived by son Charles.