David Sydney DaviesDavid Sydney Davies (OBE) the inventor of the Dermatome was born in Abertillery on 18 February 1895, and on the 1911 census the family were living on Division Street in the town.
At that time very few broke free of a mining village environment, but Davies via his Grammar school education became a leading student in the county and was awarded a scholarship at Oxford University, he was one of the first Welsh students to be admitted in this fashion.
On the outbreak of World War One Davies immediately joined the South Wales Borderers and fought with the regiment throughout the war in France and later in Salonika. He was discharged to resume his medical studies in 1918, two years earlier Davies lost his brother Willam Leyshon Davies at Mametz Wood.
At Oxford he was awarded the Theodore Williams Prize in Pathology' in 1921, and the next year he was admitted to Guy's Hospital and was awarded the Beaney Prize in Pathology in 1922.
A promising career in surgery opened with his appointment as House Surgeon to Sir Alfred Fripp, but, restless after his war experiences, he joined the Sudan Medical Service and was given a small river boat and an area the size of England to administer. There was a rebellion in the Sudan at this time and at one stage he had to walk alone through the Arab quarter of Khartoum with only a Red Cross on his arm to protect him. He returned to England on leave and married Agnes Anne Anderson, a staff nurse at Guy's Hospital, the marriage taking place at Marleybone in December 1926. The following year their first child, a son, was born in London. Dr. Davies was then considering a career in genito-urinary surgery and was Clinical Assistant at St. Paul's Hospital in London.
Itchy feet led him to accept the position of surgeon to the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in Abadan in the Persian Gulf and there his family was completed by the addition of twins. In 1931 he became physician to the British Embassy in Tehran and he gradually became responsible for the health of most the expatriate community (including the Russians) in Tehran for the next fifteen years. A busy life was enlivened with trout fishing in the Valley of the Assassins, boar hunting in the Elburz Mountains and bird expeditions to the Caspian marshes with Peter Scott. He was a keen fly fisherman all his life and took great pleasure in later life catching trout in most of the streams and dams in South Africa's Cape Peninsula and the surrounding countryside.
Throughout the years of World War Two Dr. Davies served the British Embassy in Tehran and was awarded an OBE in the 1943 Birthday Honours List. He was also admitted as a member to the Order of Science by the Shah of Persia. His family had been sent to Cape Town during the war for further education, and in 1945 he joined them. As a surgeon he had always shown an interest in plastic and reconstructive surgery and in 1946 he and the late Dr. Norman Petersen started the Plastic and Maxillofacial Unit at Groote Schurr Hospital. This unit evolved into what was perhaps the premier teaching unit in South Africa in this field.
In 1956 he helped to found the Association of Plastic Surgeons of South Africa and in 1960 he was elected President of this Society. Later, after his retirement, he was presented with a rare citation award from the Association of Plastic Surgeons. Dr. Davies retired from a busy private and hospital practice in 1960 and lived happily with Agnes Anne, his wife, for many years in Newlands, next door to his daughter who cared for him in his declining years. He was survived by two sons and a daughter, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Dr. Davies will be remembered by many theatre sisters for his wit and humour, and the days on which he and Dr. Norman Peteresen operated together will long be remembered for their hilarity. He was the epitome of a gentleman, always kind and considerate to staff and patients, and always prepared to help anyone interested in plastic surgery. He set a fine example for the first wave of young plastic surgeons passing through the unit and will be remembered with affection by all of them and was undoubtedly one of the founding fathers of plastic surgery.
David Sydney Davies died at the Western Cape on the morning of Friday 13 January 1989, just short of his 94th birthday.