Ajax Veterans Street Dedication: Latham Court
- Media Type:
- Street Name: Latham Court
Name of Veteran: Walter James Latham Jan. 27, 1912-1972
Rank: Surgeon Lieutenant Commander
Ship Served: HMS Ajax
Date of Service on Ship: 1939
Year of Visit/Dedication: n/a
Veteran or Family Visit: n/a
Veteran of the Battle of the River Plate: Yes
Died at Battle: No
Walter James Latham was born in London on January 27, 1912 to Dr. Denyer William Fellows Latham and Jessie Margaret Latham (nee Bannerman). He was educated at Tonbridge School which he left in 1930 with his Senior Certificate and Matriculation. He then studied medicine at The London Hospital where his father and grandfather had studied before him, and left with the conjoint examination (MRCS, LRCP) in January 1936. He was House Surgeon/Physician at Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital for the remainder of 1936 where he met Gertrude Mary Woolaway, a probationer nurse. Foreseeing war with Germany he joined the Royal Navy in late 1936 and was formally commissioned in September 1938 as Surgeon Lieutenant.
James was aboard HMS Ajax by February 1938 and was involved in the Battle of the River Plate. He left the Ajax early in 1940 when the ship returned to Plymouth and by February he and Gertrude were married. He then served in a naval hospital in Aberdeen where his eldest son, John Bannerman, was born on March 22, 1941. In late 1941 he was posted to HMS Trinidad and served on convoys to Russia.
From October 1942 to May 1943 James served on the Hospital ship Oxfordshire where he arranged the embarkment of wounded soldiers at the Italian landings Anzio and Salerno, for which he was awarded the Order of the British Empire. He was soon promoted to Lieutenant Commander and specialized in Radiology. Later posted to the Royal Navy Auxiliary Hospital in Sherborne, Dorset, he acquired a qualification in Radiology (DMR). He remained there until resigning from the Royal Navy in 1947.
By this time James and Gertrude had four children (John, born in 1941, Ann in 1942, Peter in 1945 and Charles born 1946). He had become a trainee in Radiology at the London Hospital where he remained until 1949. By that time he had also passed the examination for a higher diploma in Radiology (FFR).
Future in the UK looked bleak so James applied for posts overseas, notably in Canada (to which he received no reply) and another in Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa. The family immigrated to South Africa in 1949 and James worked for the Cape Provincial Administration for several years before entering private practice in Cape Town. He was also appointed honorary Radiologist to the Royal Navy.
In 1957 James had an epileptic fit which, at the time was considered to be a sequel to Asiatic Flu. Sometime later he had more fits and a brain tumor was diagnosed. Despite surgery and radiotherapy, he died in 1972 in his 60th year.
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- Location of Original:
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