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Charles Tanfield Vatchell (left) and W Sheen (right) 10-08-1912
We have a very brief obituary of him from The transactions. LXXII - LXXVIII (1939-1945) (individual transactions were suspended for the duration of the war)
Colonel Alfred William Sheen, C.B.E., M.S., F.R.C.S., 1869-1945.
The death of Provost Sheen has deprived the Society of one of its most useful and influential members those who were colleagues of his on the Society's Council will remember his sound judgment and wise counsel in their deliberations.
He was born in 1869, the son of a well-known Cardiff practitioner, educated at University College, Cardiff, and Guy's Hospital, where he qualified in 1892, with honours, in the M.B., B.S. of London, subsequently proceeding to the M.D. and M.S. degrees and F.R.C.S. Settling in Cardiff as a consulting surgeon he became a member of the Honorary Surgical Staff of the Cardiff Infirmary in 1895, which position he had held ever since.
He served throughout the South African War with the Imperial Yeomanry Field Hospital, and was mentioned in despatches. In the 1914-1918 war he formed and commanded the Welsh Hospital at Netley, which was afterwards established in India as the 34th (Welsh) General Hospital, where he remained until 1919. For his services he was made C.B.E. in 1918.
In 1921 he became Professor of Surgery in the Welsh National School of Medicine, and in 1935 was appointed Provost of the School. Among his many activities he was County Director of Voluntary Aid in Glamorgan, Past President of the Hunterian Society, and President of the Section of Surgery at the Annual Meeting of the British Medical Association in Cardiff in 1928. Provost Sheen joined the Society in 1899, became a member of the Council in 1906, and served as President in 1911-1912. For his Presidential Address he chose as the subject The History of the Cardiff Naturalists' Society, with some possibilities for its Future," he also delivered an address on the same subject at the Diamond Jubilee of the Society on November 3rd, 1927 the latter was published in Vol. 60.
We are indebted to the Secretary of the Cardiff Royal Infirmary, Mr. F. Dagnall, for much of the foregoing information, including the Obituary Notice in the British Medical Journal," 21.iv.1945, and for a copy of the Resolution of regret passed by the Board of Management of the Infirmary on March 28th of that year.
A key point to note is that he seems to have gone by the name William thoughout his career. This was presumably to seperate him from his father, also called Alfred and also a doctor in the local area
The shortness of the biography may be due to the capapbility of the Society to pubish anything longer after the war. There is an extensive obituary of him in the British Medical Journal, another on the Royal College of Surgeons website and another on the Dictionary of Welsh Biography and he seems to have been an incredible person. From these sources and newspaper extracts I have some more information about him: -
The first set of extracts relates to his activities in the Boer War where he was surgeon Leftenant
Dr. William Sheen Home From The War. Weekly Mail 17th November 1900
Cardiff Doctor On The War, Evening Express 8th March 1901
He continued to play a key role, and was clearly a greate leader as he was regognised as playing a key part as County Director of Voluntary Aid in Glamorgan during the rescue operations at Senghenydd, the scene of Britain's worst ever coalmine disaster in 1913. What followed was an even greater contribibution during the first world war where he was initially in command of the Welsh Hospital at Netley
Just two years later he was once again leaving the area on War duties, as recorded in the Transactions Of The Cardiff Naturalists' Society Vol. XLVIII 1915
The Council regrets to report that Mr. William Sheen, who had so ably edited the Society's Transactions for ten years, felt it necessary to resign that post, chiefly on account of his leaving Cardiff to command the Welsh Hospital.
The Welsh Hospital At Netley, Y Cymro 15th December 1915
There is a lot more information about the Royal Victoria Hospital to give the name of the entire hospital on The Royal Victoria Hospital and Military Cemetery at Netley site and the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps websites.
From there he led a team of doctors and nurses to setup and run the 34th (Welsh) General Hospital at Deolali in India, where he remained until 1919,
Extract from Visitors book, Welsh General Hospital (at Deolali, India), used under licence from the Wellcome Library
Whilst there he presided at The first Welsh National Eisteddfod to be held in India which took place on Easter Monday and Tuesday 1917, at the Welsh Hospital
The Amman Valley Chronicle and East Carmarthen News 24th May 1917, Welsh Eisteddfod in India.
The Welsh National School of Medicine was completed in 1921 and Sheen became its first professor of surgery and director of the surgical unit, where his administrative ability in the inauguration of the School was invaluable. He was an excellent teacher and proved to be a successful full-time professor. He became Provost of the School after relinquishing his professorial duties
There is a charming recollection in the Peoples Collection Wales describing the journey and setting up of the hospital
From the Dictionary of Welsh Biography obituary referenced above here is an extract about his later years and passing:
Although Sheen stood down as professor of surgery in 1935, a year after the School's normal retirement age for academic staff, he continued as Provost and, at the outbreak of the war, he resumed as professor of surgery while Lambert Rogers, d'Abreu and others went on active service. ... The manner of his demise was characteristic of his indomitable spirit. He had struggled from his home to the medical school, an exhausting journey of some four miles, through the heaviest snow on record, in order to keep an appointment. The effort proved too much for his heart, he collapsed in his office and, despite the best efforts of his Infirmary colleagues, he died a month later.
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