A HIGHLY-DECORATED former army doctor who was made honorary surgeon to the Queen and spent his final years in Tetbury has died aged 92.
Major-General Albert Patrick Dignan, CB, MBE, was born in Dublin in 1920, one of five brothers, all of whom became doctors.
Albert’s son Fergus said his parents had pushed their sons to get into medicine after his father, Joseph, took a job collating casualty lists for the War Office during World War One.
“He noticed there were very few doctors who were killed and he thought, if there was going to be another war he would like his children to be in the best possible position,” he said.
He qualified in 1943 and became a surgeon in 1947, but his life took an unexpected turn in 1950 when he received a visit from the Ministry of Defence.
Fergus said: “He was told he either had to go back to Ireland because he had over-stayed his visa or he could do his national service.”
He opted for the latter and was soon posted as an army surgeon to Malaya – now Malaysia – where the British Army were battling a terrorist campaign. It was there he met Eileen, a theatre sister from Cork who would become his wife in 1952.
On returning to the UK in 1952, where he received an MBE for his involvement in the Malaya campaign and took up a position as a civilian doctor.
However, Fergus said his father wasn’t out of the military long, saying: “He decided that he preferred the military life because it was more interesting.”
During his career he was posted around the world, including Germany, Singapore, Vietnam and Cyprus during the Suez Crisis in 1956.
He was promoted to Major General in 1974 while also being made a Companion of the Most Honourable Order of The bath (CB) and being appointed Queen’s Honorary Surgeon – an honorary position recognising his work with the army.
Although he retired from the army in 1978 at age 58, Fergus said he quickly found himself missing the military life and spent the last ten years of his working life as president of the Army Medical Boards in Woolwich.
He found time to write and self-publish an autobiography – A Doctor’s Experiences of Life – and enjoyed golf, placing a bet on the horse racing and visiting the pub, and was rarely seen without his pipe.
After Eileen’s death in 2001 he came to live at The Priory nursing home in Tetbury, where Fergus said he was very happy.
“People around Tetbury were very kind to him – occasionally he used to get lost walking around the town and people always used to help him,” he said.
He died peacefully at The Priory on Thursday October 11 and is survived by children Terence, Fergus and Finola, grandchildren Alexandra, Keira, Rafe and Charlotte and daughters-in-law Mary and Ginny.