Surgeon to the French Resistance
Geoffrey Edward Parker was born on 24 June 1902. Growing up in Brighton, he went to Windlesham House Preparatory School, then Marlborough College and then up to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he was awarded a Blue in boxing. In 1925, he moved to London to study clinical medicine at St Thomas’s Hospital.
In 1926, Parker successfully graduated MB BCh and gained his LRCP and MRCS. The Dean of the Medical School however, warned Parker he would not get a good job unless he dropped certain hobbies (playing the Hawaiian guitar in Maxim’s, a Chinese restaurant in Soho, being a professional dancing partner at the Royal Palace Hotel in Kensington and trying professional boxing). He took up squash instead and gained a Resident Casualty Officer job at St Thomas’s.
In 1932, Parker was appointed as a Consultant at the French Hospital (pictured right), in Shaftesbury Avenue. This hospital, with 70 beds and an operating theatre, had been founded in 1866 for the care of the French speaking population of London and by coincidence, re-named the Shaftesbury Hospital, later became part of the famous “3 P’s” London urology hospitals in 1967.
During the Second World War, Parker, joined the Emergency Medical Service (EMS). The French Hospital looked after many war wounded, some from the Blitz, but many were injured French soldiers rescued from the beaches of Dunkirk.
In 1942, he joined the RAMC and went to North Africa and then up through Sicily and Italy. Whilst back in London recovering from jaundice, he was recruited into the Special Operations Executive (SOE), part of the WWII secret service as it was noted he could speak French, he could parachute and was skilled in boxing, unarmed combat and small arms use. They needed a surgeon to parachute into occupied France to help the Maquis (French Resistance).
He was parachuted into the French Jura mountains, given the code name Parsifal, and fought with and cared for the Maquis for the rest of the War.
Geoffrey Parker had an interest in urology having worked with Sidney MacDonald (1879 - 1946), Cyril Nitch (1876 - 1969) and RHOB ("Joey") Robinson.
He was one of the founder members of BAUS and on the Council of the Urology Section of the RSM.
A memorial stone * (pictured left) in honour of Geoffrey Parker, the English surgeon to the French Maquis lies at La Borne au Lion in the Jura Mountains, on the way to the summit of the Crêt de Châlam, near the site of Parker’s field hospital.
My thanks to Jasmine Winyard for helping research Major Parker's fascinating life.
* Photograph kindly provided by Mr George Bartram RM(Ret).
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