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Air Marshall Sir John Donald

7 November 1927 - 6 November 2014

Air Marshal Sir John Donald was the commander of the RAF hospital in Cyprus

Air Marshal Sir John Donald

Air Marshal Sir John Donald, who has died aged 86, commanded the RAF hospital in Cyprus when Turkish forces occupied the north of the island in 1974.

Following the invasion , and the extensive displacement of the local populations, Donald made the facilities of his large hospital available for their care. His philosophy had always been to have no empty beds in his hospitals since “there was always someone in need”. In this case, the facility provided a sanctuary for injured soldiers and civilians alike, both Turkish and Greek.

There was also a major air evacuation of British nationals from the island, presenting Donald and his staff with many medical issues. For his services in Cyprus he was appointed OBE.

John George Donald was born on November 7 1927 at Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire, and educated at Inverurie Academy before going on to study Medicine at Aberdeen University. After working at Aberdeen Royal Mental Hospital and at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Deal, he was called up for his National Service. He joined the RAF on a short-service commission, but found the work so rewarding that he remained for 33 years.

After two years with the RAF Regiment, he spent another two as the medical officer at RAF Colombo in Ceylon, developing an interest in tropical medicine; he was one of the few doctors prepared to visit leper colonies. On his return to Britain he obtained leave to study for a diploma in Tropical Medicine at Edinburgh University, where he won the Greig Medal for Excellence.

Donald was then posted to the V-bomber base at Waddington, near Lincoln, where he was the doctor monitoring the aircrew who flew a Vulcan on the first non-stop flight from England to Australia.

He served as the RAF’s senior medical officer at Nato’s headquarters at Fontainebleau and during its transfer a year later to Brunssum in the Netherlands.

On his return from Cyprus in 1974, Donald commanded the RAF hospital at Ely. Once again, he extended its services to local civilians, and on his departure two years later he was given the Freedom of the City of Ely.

In 1978 he was appointed Principal Medical Officer (PMO) for RAF Germany. Three years later he was promoted to air vice-marshal to become PMO at HQ Strike Command, where he was responsible for the medical services for 53,000 service personnel and their dependants at 51 RAF stations, including 34 airfields. In 1982 he was responsible for the aeromedical evacuation of Falklands war casualties.

In 1985 Donald was appointed to the RAF’s most senior medical post, Director General of Medical Services. He retired in 1986 and became medical director of Security Force Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a post he held for three years. He then worked as a consultant with American Medical International.

Donald was made Honorary Surgeon to the Queen in 1983, and the following year was appointed KBE .

John Donald remained a doctor at heart and always retained a great interest in clinical medicine and the welfare of his patients. He never lost his love for his native Aberdeenshire and returned to the area whenever possible. He always cherished the invitation by the Oldmeldrum Sports Committee in 1986 to open the Oldmeldrum Highland Games.

He is survived by his wife, Jean, whom he married in 1954, and by their son and two daughters.

Air Marshal Sir John Donald, born November 7 1927, died November 6 2014

Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column.
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Article prepared by Barry Howard.

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 • Last Modified: 16 July 2019, 20:39