Major William Robert Henderson
Army No. : 122385
Prison Camps : Reserve Lazarett Obermassfeld, Oflag IVC, Oflag IXA Stalag 344
Major Henderson was born at Haydon Bridge, Northumberland, on the 3rd February 1904. He was made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his medical work whilst a prisoner of war. His citation reads:
Major Henderson was captured in France in June 1940.
Even before the war his reputation as an eminent brain specialist was widely known, and during the whole period of his captivity, as long as he was permitted by the German authorities to work where he was needed, he performed outstanding service in prisoner of war hospitals in Germany.
For nearly two years Major Henderson practiced at Obermassfeld Hospital where the most seriously wounded British prisoners of war, including amputation cases, were accommodated, acting for some time as Senior British Medical Officer. In May 1943 he was removed by the Germans and in September of that year was transferred to Oflag IVC Colditz, which was in the nature of a punishment camp, because of his outspoken criticism of the German treatment of the sick and wounded prisoners of war.
In October 1944, owing to the strong representations made by His Majesty's Government through the Protecting Power he was transferred from Colditz and sent to the hospital which served Stalag 344.
Always with limited facilities for his delicate surgical work, during the time he was in a position to practice Major Henderson performed an overwhelming number of operations and unquestionably saved the lives of many who, had they received less skilful treatment, would not have survived.
His morale was at all times outstanding, and by his example and personality he maintained a high standard of discipline among his staff. He was persistent in his efforts to obtain improvements for his patients and was quite indifferent to the trouble that his forthright attitude towards the German authorities brought on his head.
It should be recorded that during the recent repatriation of British prisoners of war from Germany, there were many who remembered Major Henderson's service to the sick and wounded and who took particular pains to record their appreciation of his tireless work on their behalf.
An enlarged photograph of the one attached above was printed in "The Sphere" on the 17th February 1945, with the words: "A Hero of the P.O.W. Camps in Germany: Major W.R. Henderson, of Leeds, who in civil life ranks as one of the country's leading brain specialists, is saving Allied prisoners of war from blindness, death and insanity with his wonderful operations in brain surgery. He has had more than one chance of being repatriated, but prefers to stay and continue his work among the prisoners, by whom he is known as "the man with the miracle hands"."
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