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In Memoriam - Sir John Baird

April 14, 2021

In Memoriam - Sir John Baird

AsMA staff were saddened to hear of the passing of Air Marshal Sir John Baird, a Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association (AsMA).

Born in Blantyre, Nyasaland Protectorate, he graduated with an M.B.Ch.B. from Edinburgh University in 1961. He then served residencies at Western General Hospital in Edinburgh and spent 6 months touring longhouses along the Baram River in Sarawak. When the rebellion in Brunei broke out, he assisted in setting up a casualty clearing station in Marudi. He was also involved in rescuing patients during the flooding following a typhoon on the Sarawak coast. His experiences flying in Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft during these times made him decide to join the RAF as a medical officer.
   In 1973, Dr. Baird returned from spending time in the United States and served as a senior medical officer at two ‘fast jet’ stations. While there he often argued against grounding aircrew. His next assignment was at HQ Strike Command as the Command Flight Medical Officer. During this time, he was involved in aircrew issues during very long range missions in the Falklands War, for which he received the Richard Fox-Linton Memorial Prize. He became commander of the RAF hospital at Ely in 1987 and was there when the Princess of Wales visited and the hospital became the Princess of Wales RAF Hospital. He was later promoted to Commodore and went to RAF Germany as the Principal Medical Officer. He became Principal Medical Officer at Strike Command 3 years later and then was promoted to Director General of RAF Medical Services.
   In 1997, Dr. Baird became Surgeon General of Defence Medical Services, a position which had him overseeing significant cuts, including reduction in medical personnel, closures of military hospitals, and the effect on morale, recruitment, and retention. Later, from 1991–2000, he was Honorary Physician to the Queen. He retired in 2000, but remained active in volunteer work. He served on the Royal Society of Medicine’s United Services Committee, in the Royal Aeronautical Society Aviation Medicine Group, and was a Fellow of numerous societies. He was appointed KBE in 1999 and was a Commander Brother of the Order of St. John. He was also President of the RAF Ornithological Society for many years.
   An online obituary can be found at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/obituaries/2020/11/22/air-marshal-sir-john-baird-surgeon-general-pushed-change-military/