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Remembering Douglas Wellington Montgomery (1913-1974, FRCSI, PRCSI 1968-70)

This week marks the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings that took place along the Normandy coast during World War II. The historic operation saw the Allied Forces mount a large-scale invasion of occupied France that ultimately tipped the course of World War II in the Allies favour. Douglas W. Montgomery, a Fellow and Past President of RCSI and member of the Royal Army Medical Corps was one of those whom landed on that historic day.

Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Douglas W. Montgomery received an Irish education and graduated with an MB from Trinity College Dublin in 1940. He was awarded the Haughton Medal and awards for clinical medicine and surgery at St Patrick Dun’s Hospital, as well as the Bennett Medal and Surgical Prize. He went on to receive his Fellowship from RCSI.

On 6 June 1944 while serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps, Montgomery took part in the D-Day landing. He was to be the first allied surgeon on the beach.
Shortly after landing and having travelled for about a mile and a quarter, Montgomery along with a group of medics (an anaesthetist, two operating-room assistants and an orderly) set up a makeshift operating theatre on the beach. The first patient Montgomery treated was an injured German soldier. Remarkably, within an hour and twenty minutes after landing the first blood transfusion was carried out. 

Surgeons logbook with entries of first patients attended to by D.W. Montgomery

Montgomery and team were to remain in the area for fifteen weeks treating the wounded soldiers.  Days were long and hard and over this short period of time, Montgomery and team operated on a total of 240 cases. 

Sign erected by the Field Surgical Team on arriving at Mairie de Ver-sur-Mer

Montgomery was to remain working in that location for the months of July and August. He was subsequently invalided out of the army due to a back injury he picked up when landing on the beach and running for cover. 

Back in Ireland, Montgomery was commissioner of the St John Ambulance Brigade and was made a Knight of the Order of St John by Queen Elizabeth II. He was President of RCSI 1968-1970.

RCSI Heritage Collections hold digital copies of unique archival material relating to Montgomery’s time in Normandy including a logbook of all surgical procedures that he  carried out as well as a typescript report written by him giving details of the fifteen weeks working in France. An extraordinary record, of extraordinary work, carried out at an extraordinary time.

The digitised Douglas W Montgomery archive collection can be explored on RCSI Digital Heritage Collections