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Trinity medic awarded MC in WW1

006 NPJ Undergraduate 1905
Norman Parsons Jewell as an undergraduate (private collection).

Norman Parsons Jewell was born in County Antrim and entered Trinity College Dublin in 1903. He was a star athlete in boxing, athletics and rugby and when he finished his medical degree he went to join the Colonial Medical Service in Seychelles. At the outbreak of WWI he joined the East African Medical Service with the rank of Captain and was eventually awarded the Military Cross. Jewell’s memoir has now been published by his family and this guest post by his grandson outlines his career:

Jewell was born in Larne, County Antrim in 1885 and was raised by his grandparents in Dublin. He entered the Medical school in TCD in 1903, completing his medical registration and early training in Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital and at the Children’s Hospital in Harcourt Street. He won the Middleweight Boxing Championship at Trinity, competed in athletics, played rugby for the TCD 1st XV and later captained the successful Patrick Dun’s Hospital Rugby XV. In 1910 he applied successfully to join the Colonial Medical Service in Seychelles. His fiancée and fellow TCD graduate (the first female graduate in chemistry), Sydney Elizabeth Auchinleck, joined him there in 1911 and they were married. There had been no talk of war in Europe when they left Ireland but, when war was declared, Norman was permitted to travel to enlist in the British Army in East Africa. He did so in Nairobi in 1914, and joined the East African Medical Service with the rank of Captain. Following his first posting to Kisumu on Lake Victoria, he was transferred to lead the 3rd East African Field Ambulance (EAFA) and joined the massing British forces near Voi.


Norman outside tent
Captain Jewell standing outside his tent (private collection).

The East African campaign was a rather different one to the static trench warfare in Europe. It became a fast-moving bush war in which the outnumbered German forces sought to occupy as many Imperial resources as they could. At its height, the campaign saw 125,000 Allied troops pitted against 25,000 German troops with the theatre of war moving through German East Africa (Tanzania) ending up in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) with the eventual surrender, after Armistice Day, of the undefeated German commander, General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck. Deaths from diseases such as malaria and dysentery far outnumbered deaths from war injuries and the African bush and tropical conditions were a challenge to supplies and logistics. Fatalities were particularly high in the African carriers.

Despite being invalided at times from the front line with malaria, malnutrition and debilitation, Norman was present throughout the campaign in German East Africa. He made one convalescent trip to Seychelles in 1917 where he saw his wife and two sons, after a separation of more than 2 years, and met his daughter Norah for the first time. He was awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. Over a period of almost three days he singlehandedly attended to 100 wounded soldiers.

MC Award London Gazette, April 1917
Notification of Jewell’s receipt of the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry in East Africa.

Back in East Africa he re-joined the 3rd EAFA and at one point was Officer Commanding the First Combined Field Ambulance. In 1918 he was transferred back to Kisumu and describes being immediately confronted by the global Flu Pandemic. Norman returned to Dublin in 1920 to complete his fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (Ireland) and Diploma of Public Health.  He narrowly escaped assassination on Bloody Sunday 1920 appearing on the list of alleged British Army agents due to his war service in Africa. This influenced his decision to return to the Kenya Colony with his family as a member of the Colonial Medical Service where he led a successful career in Mombasa and Nairobi. He earned an OBE in 1929 for his work.

WO95-5324 (3) War Diary Combined Field Ambulance August 1917
Extract from Jewell’s official war diary. (National Archives).

Jewell published a Handbook on Tropical Fevers (1932) and on his return from service in 1932 he settled in England. Norman Jewell wrote a memoir On call in Africa in war and peace, 1910-1932 which has just been published by his family. There has been a continuous family connection with TCD; Norman’s eldest son John Hugh Auchinleck Jewell graduated in Medicine in the 1930s, his grandson David Jewell in Engineering in the 1960s and his great grandson Jo Jewell in European studies in 2007.

Dr Tony Jewell (grandson)


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