Born in Liverpool in 1906, Richard Webster ‘Dicky’ Doyle studied medicine at the city’s university and qualified as a surgeon in 1929. During the war, he volunteered for the Royal Medical Corps and served in the Far East.
He was captured during the fall of Singapore and spent three years in Changi jail where he provided medical care for his fellow prisoners in the most difficult circumstances.
The incident he is remembered for involved three prisoners who had been sentenced to death by public decapitation. After the third stroke of the sword, Doyle was summoned to dispose of the bodies, but to his amazement, he realised that one man was still alive.
He was surreptitiously moved to the makeshift operating theatre and Doyle successfully repaired the neck muscles with wire taken from the camp piano.
Lord Mountbatten singled him out for praise in a personal citation for this and other acts of humanity.
Doyle returned to Liverpool and became co-founder of the Travelling Surgical Club, a group created to pass on the surgical skills they had learned during the war.
Above is the only photo I was able to find of Doyle which is a shame as he was known for his sartorial elegance.
He was an avid fisherman and also owned a collection of vintage motorcycles, one of which he rode to the Rome Olympics in 1960.
He received the Queen’s Jubilee Medal in 1977 and was awarded a papal knighthood by the Roman Catholic Church.
Doyle died in 1990 aged 84 and you can read his obituary from the BMJ here.