When Clifford Brewer died in 2017, aged 104, he was the last surviving surgeon to have worked on the D-Day landings. In the first few months after the landings he operated on about 1,000 casualties before he was relieved and demobilised with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.
He was born in Liverpool on 29th April 1913, the son of headteacher Oscar John Brewer and his wife Marian (née Almond). At the time of his birth the family were living in Stoneycroft at 94 Portelet Road L13, but he spent his early years in Garston, firstly at 36 Long Lane L19, then 134 Long Lane L19. He attended the newly-established Quarry Bank High School and remarkably entered Liverpool Medical School when aged just 15. His performance as a medical student was quite formidable, attaining a host of prizes including gold medals in anatomy, surgery and gynaecology. By
He was a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons by the age of 25( at which point the family had moved to 66 Chalfont Road L18) and after a spell at Liverpool Royal Infirmary he moved to the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford. This was his post when war broke out in 1939 and as a Territorial Army office he was immediately mobilised. He saw active service across the Middle East and on one occasion was asked to assist Polish medical staff drain an carbuncle on the neck of one of their officers. The patient turned out to be the famous General Sikorski, Commander-in-Chief of the Polish forces. He astonished Brewer by presenting him with the country’s second highest award., the Order of Polonia Restituta. It was only a few weeks after Brewer’s treatment that Sikorski was killed in a plane crash.
He led something of charmed life. His unit was sent to Boulogne just as the Germans were encircling the allied troops at Dunkirk. He would have been captured but for his commanding officer’s decision to embark the whole hospital back to England.Sent to Greece all the medical staff in his unit were captured save Brewer, who had been posted to Crete shortly before. Similarly just before the fall of Crete he was posted to Tobruk. On D-Day itself his landing craft got stuck on a sandbank and was not able to get off for two days. By this time things were a bit quieter and Brewer likened his disembarkation at Normandy as being like landing on Blackpool beach.
His workload in France was phenomenal, performing about twenty operations a day for nine months. At times, such as the battle for Caen, he was literally operating in the middle of tank battles. The strain on him must have been considerable and early in 1945 his senior officer decided enough was enough and after a spell at Bayeux he was allowed to return home. Soon after the war he was appointed a Consultant Surgeon at Liverpool Royal Infirmary and remained there until his retirement in 1978.
After his marriage to Marjorie Hirst he lived at a number of addresses including 34 Alder Road L12 (1946) , 14 Aigburth Drive L17 (1947-50) 87 Druidsville Road L18 (1951-52). He then lived for some years at 6 Mill Bank L13. After retirement he moved to Hampshire.
Brewer had many interests outside his medical career being an enthusiastic angler who was still fishing the Test aged 100. He was something of an authority on antique clocks, writing a book on the subject for Country Life. He also wrote The Death of Kings, a medical history of the Kings and Queens of England (which is still in print). Other works included a history of the Royal Liverpool Infirmary and various articles on angling an pottery.
Brewer's family home at the time of his birth.
First Brewer home in Garston.
Second address of Brewer family in Garston
Brewer's address before he moved to Oxford.
Brewer's address c.1946
Brewer's address c. 1947-50.
Brewer's address 1951-52
Brewer's book published when he was 87.
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