Sam Janikoun

Brigadier Samuel Janikoun, OBE

Sam Janikoun was one of the few Jews of recent immigrant stock who rose to high rank in the British Army. His high technical competence was allied to an unshakable imperturbability and total reliability.
The first stretch of his path through life was conventionally in step with his background. Samuel Hirsch Janikoun was born in the East End of London in 1913 and won a scholarship Hackney Downs Grammar School. From there he chose to read medicine at University College London.

A few years after he had graduated and started practising, the Second World War broke out. He treated his first war casualties in a civilian hospital in Croydon, South London, located not far from the airport through which the wounded men were flown back into this country.

From there he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps. With the RAMC he saw frontline service in North Africa and Italy, and in France after D-Day on June 6, l944. Throughout the North West Europe campaign he operated, like other surgeons, on shattered limbs in tents behind the front line in France, Belgium and Germany with the sound of artillery fire constantly assaulting his ears.

In late l944 as the Allied armies battled their way through western Germany and found themselves liberating concentration camps with their grisly evidence of mass starvation and death, his commanding officer decided to send Janikoun, with his Jewish background, to India.

In his later service he was based in Singapore with a wide remit throughout the Army serving in the Far East. Janikoun was seen in the Army as particularly successful in his close liaison with the other forces. As a medical practitioner, he acquired a special skill in handling and fitting artificial limbs, which he developed that in his latter years in the Army, and went on with it at Roehampton Hospital, in South West London, after this retirement as a brigadier, having been appointed OBE. In the course of this work he came to meet Group Captain Douglas Bader, one of the most famous of the members of the Armed Forces who lost their limbs and went on to build new and productive lives.

Samuel Hirsch Janikoun was joint professor of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and the Royal Army Medical College. He was born in the East End of London on 12 March 1913 into a Jewish family. He won a scholarship to Hackney Downs Grammar School and from there went on to University College London to read medicine, qualifying MRCS LRCP in 1937.

During the Second World War he first treated war casualties in a civilian hospital in Croydon. In 1942 he joined the RAMC as a surgical trainee and was posted to the Cambridge Military Hospital in Aldershot. The following year he was sent on an urgent mission as a senior medical officer on board HMS Orion with reinforcements to North Africa. On his return from this mission he was posted to 33 Casualty Clearing Station as a junior surgical specialist training for the invasion of Europe in 1944. He went on to serve in France, Holland, Belgium and Germany, operating on shattered limbs in tents behind the front line. He subsequently moved to India in January 1945, serving in Secunderabad and Barrackpore as a senior surgical specialist until he was discharged in June 1946.

On demobilisation, he became a resident surgical officer at Acton Hospital and passed his FRCS in 1950. He rejoined the RAMC in 1955. His initial posting on returning to the service was as officer in charge of the surgical division at BMH Catterick. With the intensity of action in Malaya, the Far East troops were reinforced and he was posted to BMH Singapore, qualifying for the general service medal with the Malayan clasp.

On his return to the UK in 1960 he became the senior consultant at Queen Alexandra’s Military Hospital, Millbank, the central reference hospital for Army patients from home and abroad. Here he gave tremendous support to UK surgeons. If they had difficult cases he would readily give second opinions and advice, and on many occasions accepted the patient on transfer. This was an invaluable service.

After six years he returned to the BMH Singapore for a short tour before his appointment as professor of military surgery based at the Army Medical College, but he soon re-established his consulting role at Queen Alexandra’s Military Hospital, Millbank.

In 1967 he was promoted to brigadier as the command consulting surgeon at the headquarters of the British Army of the Rhine, Rheindahlen, Germany.

He retired on 12 March 1973 and was soon appointed as a consultant surgeon at the limb fitting centre at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton. He extended this service, taking on not only the cases from the Far East and Northern Ireland, but also the large numbers of patients from the Second Wold War who needed regular reviews as the grew older. He also gave a large amount of time and consultation to the Israel Army wounded when he was on leave.

He was given a special tea party for his 90th birthday attended by his extended family and friends. The director general of the RAMC held a special lunch in his honour at the headquarters mess of the Army Medical Services, attended by many retired surgical colleagues.

His wife Magaly, who was a dental student when they met, predeceased him after nearly 60 years of marriage. He died on 15 December 2008 and was survived by two sons and two daughters.

Janikoun had the gift of inspiring total trust in his patients. They remained deeply loyal to him over decades. He retained his lively mind into his nineties, read four books every week, and set to work every day on the crossword in this newspaper.

His wife, Magaly, who was a dental student when they met, predeceased him after nearly 60 years of marriage. He is survived by two sons and two daughters.

Brigadier Samuel Janikoun, OBE, army doctor, was born on March 12, 1913. He died on December 15, 2008, aged 95