Gong Gong says

This is a posthumous blog of our father's (Lim Kok Ann) life. When our father passed away on 8 March 2003, he left behind an unpublished autobiography. We'd like to celebrate his life by sharing his autobiography through this blog.


"I have dredged these anecdotes from memory just to pass the time; if they amuse my grandchildren their purpose will have been served; if they provide any instruction, it will be a happy coincidence; that they are disjointed is probably to be expected.

Aurora was the name of my grandfather’s house in Kulangsu.   Amoy, where I spent the first five or six years of my life.   I still have vivid memories of events that took place when I was barely three years old.

Lim Kok Ann
October 1996"

Sunday, August 17, 2008

2: 9 Sciennes Road

We went for our honeymoon to Loch Awe in the Scottish Highlands, my intention being spend a week or two hiking through the highlands, living in a tent and living off the land, doing our own cooking. After a day or two at Loch Awe Hotel, we did spend half a day walking through the countryside and one night in a tent. My idea of a camping holiday was too naive, and after one night I had the wisdom to call off the hike and to return home which was my old lodgings that I shared with Chong Eu at 28 Sciennes Road, -- south of the Meadows, to place it in Edinburgh.

Rosie shared my room while Chong Eu had his own room and we shared a sitting room. Mrs. Rutherford, our land-lady had her own bed-sitting room and allowed us to use her kitchen. Chong Eu and I had cooked our meals during the week-ends and otherwise usually only had breakfast i the flat. When Rosie joined us, we cooked our evening meals most days and my Boy Scouts training made me the most expert cook of the three of us. The Meadows was just south of the University and our daily walk to our classes took only fifteen minutes – ten minutes if we had to run because we were late. We lived moderately well on my scholarship of 400 pounds, for food prices were government controlled as were prices of other so-called essential goods.

Not to be idle, Rosie joined the University as an Arts student and thoroughly enjoyed the lectures on English literature, especially those on Shakespeare’s plays, given by one of the great English language teachers of the time, Professor Drover Wilson. She also found unexpected delight in her Geography classes, her lecturer being Lady Swanzie Agnew, which was a coincidence, for at the time that Rosie was attending Lady Agnew’s lectures, I was attending Chemistry II classes with her husband Sir Ffoulke Agnew. Ffoulke was a hereditary Scottish baron, and had spent some time in China as a reporter. Why he was studying chemistry I never found out, but we worked at the same bench for a year.

Rosie studied at the University for a little over a year (1942-44) and then had to give up because she was expecting a baby. This was not quite planned for but we took it as fulfilment of our destiny. Our daughter Sing Po was born on 15 April 1944 in a nursing home in Chalmer’s Street. The obstetrician was Dr. Ethna Little, one of the consultants at the teaching hospital who did not charge us anything. By another coincidence, Rosie found Swanzie Agnew in the bed adjoining hers, for she too had a baby, a son named Crispin, born on the same day as Sing Po. The name Crispin brought to mind immediately the lines from Shakespeare’s Henry V, spoken by King Henry on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt, “This day is call’d the feast of Crispian: he who outlives this day and comes safe home, will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d .... Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot, but he’ll remember with advantages what feats he did that day.” From that day a life-long friendship grew up between Swanzie and Rosie.

Sing Po’s name was given us by Hsiao Ch’ien, a British Council scholar from China studying in Oxford. Hsiao had been giving Chinese language lessons to overseas Chinese members of the Chinese Students Union and when we asked him to help us find a name for the prospective newcomer, he gave us a name for a boy and a name for a girL Sing Po’s name meant Star Waves -and recalls the name of her parent’s home, Singapore. Chinese like puns! I was much pleased with the name because of its association with “The Planets,” a symphony by Hoist suggestive of the music of the spheres, though I did not care very much for the music itself. A local reporter translated the name as “Starry Ripples” which I thought somewhat clumsy.

(Editor’s note: Or, befitting my somewhat kooky pursuits in later years, it could be translated as “Astral Vibrations”)

On a recent trip to China I found Hsiao Ch’ien hale and hearty at over eighty years of age. His name in pin-yin is spelt Xiao Qian and he holds several important appointments including that of Director of the Central Research Institute of Culture and History. Xiao was kind enough to help me make names for Su Hui’s children: Xiong Kang for Bernard, and Xiong Qian for Christopher, meaning Healthy Bear and Strong Bear.

2:8 War Refugee
As described above I was sanguine about the situation in Singapore for a few weeks after Pearl Harbour and even the sinking of the Repulse and Prince of Wales did not worry me too much, as I did not realize that they were the only effective British war ships east of Suez.

Note: Mr. Churchill had sent the battleship Repulse and the cruise: Prince of Wales to block the Japanese invasion of north Malaya. They were to have been accompanied by an aircraft carrier but this go left behind for repairs. The Japanese Air Force, already land based in Trengganu, was thereby given the opportunity to demonstrate the weakness of British arms.

Editor’s note: The Japanese sank the two battleships, which was a tremendous blow to the British. Some of the wounded sailors were brought to Singapore for medical care. My mother helped to nurse these wounded sailors, being among some women who volunteered to nurse them, as part of their civic contribution.

I was shattered when it was announced that Singapore had surrendered, and in despair until a letter from Rosie arrived from Bombay to say that she was on the way to Scotland with her Aunt Irene. Aunt Irene was a Scots lady who had married the brother of Rosie’s mother when he was a medical student in Edinburgh; he returned home when he could not pass Public Health (4th Year Medicine) and became a pharmaceutical salesman.

I learned subsequently, that when the Japanese landed in north Malaya, Rosie’s parents decided to evacuate with Rosie to Australia where Eu Jin was studying architecture. Rosie would not agree to go with them, however, thinking that she should remain in Singapore because she feared to lose me if I returned to Singapore and not find her there. She had learned that her Aunt Irene was being evacuated to Scotland and wanted to accompany her, which she did. Rosie, Aunt Irene and her four children, with Mrs K.T. Ooi and my sister Mimi, left Singapore on February 14, one day before the British surrendered to the Japanese, on the Felix Rousell which took them to Bombay where they stayed for some weeks awaiting passage to Scotland, their official destination.

Rosie had quite a tussle with officialdom before she could persuade them that she had someone waiting in Scotland to provide for her, and they probably let her accompany Aunt Irene because it meant they had one less refugee to look after. In the event they were given passages on a fast liner that brought them to Glasgow, evading the German submarine packs in the Atlantic. Fifty years later, I learned that my Aunt Gertrude, the wife of my Uncle Francis, was also on the Felix Rousell with her daughter Margie and her son Jimmy, barely three years old. Rosie never mentioned this.

“One fine day,” I got a telegram from Glasgow announcing that Rosie had arrived.

Note: “One fine day” is the title of an aria from the opera Madama Butterfly, in which the heroine Butterfly sings of the day when her lover, Pinkerton, an American diplomat will return to her. He did, but with his American wife.

I got on a train immediately and fetched her from the hotel where the refugees were lodged and brought her to Edinburgh. The sad news I had for Rosie was that her father never made it to Australia; he had died at sea. Until we got married Rosie stayed with my good friends Simon Ward and his wife Ella in Eilden Terrace near the Botanic Gardens. Simon was Principal Secretary (equivalent of our Perm Sec) in the Scottish Department of Agriculture. He had a degree in Classical Languages (First Class) from Oxford and told me harrowing tales of how rugby was played in the varsities. Simon kindled in me an interest in the Greek tragedies which he would quote in the original from memory but which I read in translation. As a civil servant he abstained from politics, but his sympathies can be seen from these lines from Shelley that he taught me:

Rise like lions after slumber in innumerable number
Shake your chains from you like dew; we are many, they are few.


It was near the time of my First Professional Examination (Anatomy and Physiology) to pass which made one a proper medical student, qualified to attend classes on patients. I arranged toget married as soon as my examinations were over and Rosie picked the actual date, July 2nd, 1942, a Thursday, and not as convenient as the following Saturday would have been. However, July 4th was Rosie’s birthday, and she did not want to have to combine wedding anniversaries with birthday celebrations!

We were married by the Edinburgh Registrar of Marriages with Chong Eu as my Best Man and Ella Ward as the Matron of Honour. Among the congratulatory messages that we received was one from the Chinese Students Association of Great Britain of which I was Hon Secretary for a year (Chong Eu was the President) with a wedding gift of a set of Rose China which we treasured for many years, and of which there remain one or two pieces. Rosie was married in a cheong-sam she had brought with her. It was white satin and covered with tiny nonya gold ornaments, that her maid spent a whole night stitching on. After the ceremony, Rosie asked to be driven down to the Edinburgh docks where she threw her wedding bouquet into the sea as an offering to her father. Rosie’s wedding ring was a narrow band barely wide enough to bear the engraving Rosie - Ann.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

2:8 War with Japan

Chong Eu and I had been making our contribution to the British war effort by giving talks for the British Ministry of Information on the Chinese war effort which was keeping the Japanese busy - so the British thought - thus saving the British from unwelcomed distractions in the Far East. Using material supplied by the China Campaign Committee we gave talks all over the place. and it was not with a little pride, that I referred to “My Uncle Dr. Robert Lim, the Surgeon General of the Chinese Army Red Cross.”

When Madame Chiang Kai Shek went to Washington to appeal for help for China’s war against Japan - “Our war against Japan is also your war,” she said - she was told that that might be so, but look where the aid-money America had given China in the past went to. Finally, it was agreed that the Americans would not give military aid as that might upset the Japanese, but help could be given for humanitarian purposes, for example, the Red Cross in China. Moreover, to ensure that the money given was applied properly, the money given would be channelled through Dr. Robert Lim whom they knew of as a Rockefeller Foundation appointee and whom they trusted. Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek made Robert Lim the Surgeon-General of the Chinese Red Cross, quite an innovation in China, for until then, medical aid for the wounded Chinese soldiers had a low priority.
Stella says: This shows that the American's trusted Robert Lim 's integrity. My father used to relate that in Chiang Kai Shek's army, it was almnost routine for generals and commanders to enrich themselves at the expense of the troops, stripping off and selling all the materials and supplies. But when Robert Lim left his post of Surgeon General of the Red Cross, every ambulance under his command was left with a full complement of spareparts, tires and battery. Robert himself was almost penniless... but his friends and admirers in America get him the job as Professor in Chicago, so he could start a new life in America with his family .. and there they remain to this day!

When in the winter of 1941, Japan thought it was time to launch her own deep-laid plans for expansion, and on December 7, struck at Pearl Harbour (Tora, Tora, Tora), the talks Chong Eu and I gave had a greater urgency. When asked if the Japanese could take Singapore, I confidently claimed that Fortress Singapore could hold-out indefinitely. I pointed out that a land invasion through the jungles of Malaya was not practical, for the invaders would be bombed all the way down the Malay Peninsula. I did not know that the British had few serviceable planes in the area, and that the Japanese would use bicycles to by-pass attempts to set up blockades. According to Churchill’s Memoirs he was just as surprised as I was that Singapore was unable to hold out for long.

Footnote: Tora, Tora, Tora’, Japanese for ‘Tiger, Tiger, Tiger’, was the code-word radioed back by the attacking bombers at Pearl Harbour to report that complete surprise had been achieved.

2:7 Proposal.

In the summer of 1941 Iwas much concerned with the way the war was going and how families everywhere were being disrupted and I could not get over a deep sense of insecurity. I felt that my life lacked direction and I gradually came to the conclusion that I needed to get married so as to start a family of my own. The solution was readily at hand; the erratic correspondence that I had with Rosie gave me hope that she was still unattached, and one night when I was on fire-guardduty in the attic of the University Union, I composed a letter of marriage proposal and sent it to her by airmail.

Rosie was rather taken aback at the suddenness of my proposal, but she indicated her willingness by telegram. I then wrote my father and asked him to see Rosie’s parents to formally arrange the marriage. My father wrote to say that the marriage was agreed to, and exhorted me to take good care of my wife to be. I had given no thought to how and when the wedding would take place but the Japanese came to our assistance by injecting a note of urgency into our affairs.

2:5 Research on Penicillin.

When we enrolled for the Science course we had to choose a subject for our Honours course to follow our Ordinary Degree course. The prospect of being compared with my illustrious uncle Robert made me steer clear of Physiology while Anatomy was without any appeal as we approached the subject as an exercise in remembering the relationships between various parts of the human body. Of the third year subjects, I found Bacteriology most attractive. I had recently read an account of the life of Louis Pasteur and enjoyed very much the book “Microbe Hunters,” by an author whose name I have forgotten. Jimmy Gould and I who had signed up to take Bacteriology for Honours were invited to spend some vacation time in the department helping a member of staff in his research, to find if the work was suited to our temperaments.

The staff member to whom I was attached (apprenticed?) was Dr. Ogel who was studying Staphylococci. This is a bug responsible for suppuration of wounds and capable of massive invasion of the tissues if body resistance failed. The usual way to produce immunity was to inject the patient with killed bacteria. This would stimulate the body to produce antibodies to the bug, while the dead bug would be unable to cause any damage. In the case of Staphyloccus, however, this method did not work too well. This bacterium produced a variety of toxins, and it was not easy to produce a vaccine that would be effective against all of them. In the.1930s, the most effective way of treating staphylococcus infection was to use the recently discovered sulphonamides. Very soon it was found that staphylococci were capable of mutating to varieties which were resistant to the drug they had been exposed to,and this continued to happen when new kinds of sulphonamides or other drugs were introduced. When Dr. Ogel took me into his laboratory he was testing out a new and promising staphylococcal drug.

This was penicillin, a product of the common bread mould Penicillium notatum, just discovered by Alexander Fleming. Some people say that it was only by chance that he discovered the use of penicillin. I would say that similar chances happen to unlucky people who throw away their discoveries, “like the base Indian”(see footnote).

Ogel’s part in the work on penicillin in Edinburgh was to estimate the blood levels of penicillin in patients receiving penicillin by various methods while colleagues studied the effects of different regimes. Of patients, there was no shortage; it was war, and patients with severe war wounds, some of them with massive staphylococcal infection, were flown to Edinburgh for treatment. Ogel’s method of testing was to place 0.01 ml of patient’s serum, suitably diluted, in little cups cut in an agar plate the surface of which had been seeded with staphylococci. The penicillin in the patient’s serum diffused into the agar and inhibited the growth of staphylococci at the margins of the cups, to a width that indicated the concentration of penicillin in the patient’s blood.

A hundredth part of a millilitre (ml or cubic centimetre) is a very small quantity to measure accurately, and we would normally use a specially calibrated micro-pipette to do so. Such pipettes were expensive and could not be used for Ogel’s work as many pipettes were required in each experiment, each of which had to be sterilized between use. Someone, however, had devised a way of making 0.01 ml measuring pipettes, and I was put to making these pipettes in quantity.
To make such a pipette, I would take a short piece of glass tubing half a centimetre in diameter and soften the middle by heating in a blow-lamp (Bunsen burner). I would then pull gently at the ends to draw the middle into a narrow tube. This gave me two “Pasteur pipettes”, commonly used in bacteriological work to transfer bacterial suspensions from one flask to another. I next blew a small bulb at the end of the narrow tube that I had made and cut the narrow tube about half a centimetre from the bulb. With experience, I was able to make a bulb of just under 0.01 ml capacity. In fact, my aim would be to make a bulb of such a size that when I draw up 0.01 ml into the bulb, the liquid would fill the pipette from its tip to a little above the bulb, where I would make a little mark with white glass ink. The liquid that I used for this purpose and measured out with a 0.1 ml pipette, calibrated in l00ths of a ml, was mercury whose boundary in a glass tube was easy to mark.. Provided I was careful about maintaining everything at room temperature, I could double check the volume of mercury I used by weighing it. Physical tables were available that gave the weight of mercury per ml to very narrow limits. Mercury was used for measuring volumes because it did not evaporate during the experiment as would water, for example, and the volume it occupied was easily seen. I spent the most of one vacation making dozens and dozens of micro-pipettes.

After I completed the Ordinary Degree science course I had a talk with my Director of Studies to discuss the question whether I should take a one-year break in my medical studies to take a Science Honours course. His advice was that I should continue my medical studies and after graduation, take the Honours Science degree, if I was still interested. Some students who break off their medical studies to do the Science Honours year never resume their medical studies. “In your case,” he said, “your main objective is a medical degree so you should concentrate on that for the time being.” Very good counsel and in good time, for I was being attracted by the handicraft in research, being always clever with my hands.

In the subsequent vacations, I returned to the Bacteriology department to gain more laboratory experience and helped the Surgical team that was treating war wounds with penicillin. The antibiotic was still in short supply and our special task was to devise a continuous intramuscular drip (usually in the thigh muscle) that would deliver 100 ml of penicillin solution evenly over 24 hours. It was a good idea that failed because the muscle got irritated by the needle and after sometime refused to absorb the injected fluid and pass it on as it nonnally did. My part in the experiment was to calibrate the drip apparatuses and adjust the delivery rate appropriately.

Footnote “Whose hand, like the base Indian, threw a pearl away richer than all his tribe.’’ --Othello

Friday, August 01, 2008

2:4 The Students’ Union.


When I became a real medical student, studying dissection in the Medical Faculty located in what was known as the Old College, I also became a member of the Students’ Union, adjacent to Old College. That was my undoing. The Students’ Union was a club with cafeteria and restaurant (uniformed waitresses!), and equipped with a bar and a billiard-room with four tables, not to mention a library and a barber. I had worked very hard in my first year at the University, but in later years gradually slacked off in my studies. The truth was that I had run out of steam, and there were distractions such as billiards and bridge that were more interesting than books. It this regard, a saying goes, “a skill at billiards is the sign of a miss-spent youth.”

A good companion of mine in the Union was Lee Ee Ngee a Singapore student. EN was some years my senior and was said to have been a capable student but after he had passed his first year in medicine he had a motor-cycle accident that laid him up for more than six months and when he returned to his studies he just did not have the energy to hack it. Moreover, the war came then and EN had to work for his living so he became a potato-inspector. Potatoes are propagated by planting bits of the tuber that have “eyes” and not from seeds of the flowering plant. The “vegetative” mode of reproduction preserves the desirable characteristics of the “seed-potato” which was worth much more than the “table-potato”. Scottish farms specialised in growing seed-potatoes propagated by the same method, but because some of the potato plants that sprang-up might be aberrant types (rogues), the farmer had to root them out before they produce tubers and degrade his stock. The potato-inspector surveyed the potato fields when the plants are fully grown and certifies that rogues are not significantly present.

EN earned enough from this work to keep himself at the university, but he never completed his course. One day we learned that EBJ, Senior Lecturer in Anatomy, had sent for EN because he had failed again. EN returned to the Union waving a hammer and reported that EBJ had told him, “Lee, nail your scrotum to your chair if you want to pass the exam.” EN was so long a member of the Students’ Union that they made him a Honorary Life-Member and his portrait may still be seen there.

I had enough sense to keep up with my work until I had passed my Medical Second Year, the First Professional Examinations, comprising Anatomy and Physiology and at the same time complete my Science second year, namely Anatomy 1 and Physiology 1 (both 60% + in the medical course), and Chemistry 2, and my Science third year, Anatomy 2 and Physiology 2 (both 60°/o ±the medical course) plus Embryology and Anthropology. Having complete the requirements for ordinary degree of Bachelor of Science, I was given the option of being conferred the Ordinary Degree or waiting till I had completed my Honours and being conferred the Degree with Honours. The rule was that one was conferred the degree once only, with or without Honours, and having received the Ordinary Degree, one is only mentioned in the lists when completing the Honours requirements. For me there was no question, “Bird in hand, better than two in bush”. I was capped B.Sc. in 1944.

2. 3 Lim Chong Eu

I did not know Lim Chong Eu until we met somewhere in the University for he was two years ahead of me in the medical school. Though he went to Edinburgh only a year ahead of me, he had the advantage of having passed his Physics and Chemistry A levels in Penang Free School and so was admitted directly to the medical course. Chong Eu knew all about me, however, for the students Penang Free School Special Class took their studies professionally. They found out as much as they could about their rivals in Raffles Institution, who their teachers were, and how well regarded the students were. In addition, Chong Eu’s father was Dr. Lim Chwee Leong, a great admirer of Boon Keng. From his early youth, Chong Eu’s father would hold up Lim Boon Keng as an example for Chong Eu to follow and Chong Eu had had enough of my family by the time he got to Edinburgh where a further trial awaited him.

After a distinguished career at Edinburgh University, my Uncle Robert had accepted an appointment in 1922 as Professor of Physiology in the Peking Union Medical College. Many professors of Edinburgh University either knew Robert Lim personally (might have been his students) or had heard of him, so when Lim Chong Eu turned up in their classes, they would ask him if related to the illustrious Dr. Robert Lim. “No, I am not”, Chong Eu would say, and deftly add, “But his nephew is already here, one year behind me.” When in due course, I turned up, I often had to tell what Robert Lim was doing, not an easy task as I never had any direct contact with him. I had second-hand information, however, through the China Campaign Committee, a left wing organization some said was a Communist front, that was raising funds for China and agitating against Japan. That was before Pearl Harbour and Britain did not have any energy left for Far East matters, after having to cope with Hitler and Mussolini.

2:2 Edinburgh Medical School

As Britain awoke to find itself in yet another war with Germany, I set about the business of becoming a medical student. The Anglo-Chinese School had no Science laboratories, and thoughtook General Science as a supplementary subject when I was in the Special Class, it was entirelytheoretical. To remedy my ignorance of laboratory procedures, I had taken night-classes in Chemistryat Raffles Institution. I believe they were conducted as remedial classes for students doing poorly inschool because of poor teaching or poor facilities in their schools, and I found the going difficult, orperhaps I did not pay enough attention to the work. I scraped together enough know-how to pass thePre-registration test in Physics and Chemistry that was required of medical students.

I don’t know how I did it , but perhaps the examiners were lenient because of the war-time situation. (What would they do with a reject? Send him home?). I only understood later what a duffer I must have been when I realised that I should have diluted my test acid solution 1/10 before using it in titrations (the end-point went past zip with one drop), and that my physics, learned from my father’s old text dated 1910, were a bit antiquated. Still, much of Physics was Mechanics in Advance Maths that I knew well.

The first year subjects in British medical schools were Anatomy and Physiology, and students were required to have passed Physics, Chemistry and Biology at A Level before entering medical school. Edinburgh University provided a solution for students without such qualifications, and there were quite a number who had attended schools that did not have science laboratories, or who had taken Arts subjects and then decided later that they would study medicine. Such students enrolled for a double degree, in Science and in Medicine, taking courses for Science which at the same time qualified for the medical course, or subjects in the medical curriculum that were considered Science subjects as well. In the latter, I had to pass with Credit to score as a Science student. The majority of those who signed up with me for a double degree abandoned the science business as soon as they were established as medical students. I remember only James C. Gould, later the director of the Scottish Public Health Laboratories, who took the double degree with me and went the whole way.

First Year Science was Physics 1, Chemistry 1, Zoology 1 and Medical Botany (required on]of medical students). Those who took Chemistry in school had the advantage over me as the first term covered what they had learned in school, but after that we were on level ground. It was a grind, but I did well enough to score credits in all but Medical Botany. Phaik Lin did not do so well, and at the end of the year went to study at the Royal College of Surgeons which awarded a recognised medical qualification, but whose teaching was more practical than academic.

We University students tended to look down on the students at the Colleges but the prejudice was unjustified. The Colleges were the professional institutions whose senior qualifications were mandatory for medical specialists, but which retained the historic antagonism between physicians and surgeons in their respective domains. To be a consultant physician one would have to become a Member of the Royal College of Physicians, and to be a consultant surgeon one had to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. There is a rank of Fellow in the College of Physicians, but it is an honour conferred on distinguished Members and cannot be earned by examinations. The teachers in the Colleges held honorary consultant posts in the Edinburgh Infirmary and other teaching hospitals, alongside the University professors, and all had their own private practices where they earned their real income. Professor David Dunlop, our Professor of Clinical Medicine told us that there were three ways of getting rich as a doctor: “The first and easiest way for the lucky,” he said, “is to inherit money, the second and very tedious, is to work your butt off, the third and possibly enjoyable, is to marry money.” This always brought the house down because the students knew that Dunlop had married the heiress of McEwan Beer, a beverage popular enough to enable its proprietor to give Edinburgh the McEwan Hall, a large auditorium where concerts, conferences and graduation ceremonies were held. Professor Dunlop was gently pointing out to us that if we were not lucky in selecting either parents or spouse, then we jolly well had to slog.

Though we had shared the same lodgings and attended the same classes in my first year, i did not see so much of Phaik Lin when she went to study in the Colleges. When she moved, Chong Eu came to stay in my lodgings with me. My second year of study was my first year in medicine and my class-mates were those who came straight from school to University. They were at the age liable for military service, and Britain being at war, all were subject to conscription. During the First World War, enrolment in the army was voluntary at first and the flower of British youth perished in trenches and battlefields of France, amongst them Rupert Brook, the poet. At the outset of WW2 British government designated a number of essential services whose personnel were exempt from service because they were considered contributors to the war effort. Medical students, as budding doctors, were exempt from the general call-up provided they remain students. When they failedannual examinations, they were “sent down”, and soon after called-up for military service. Thus it was that from time to time a classmate who had flunked the examination we sat together would disappear from our ken, only to reappear some weeks later in uniform, usually to bid us farewell as he vbe posted overseas. The fear of failing my examinations never bothered me too much, I was so sure I was more than a match for my examiners. But I anticipate.

2:2 Edinburgh Medical School

As Britain awoke to find itself in yet another war with Germany, I set about the business of becoming a medical student. The Anglo-Chinese School had no Science laboratories, and thoughtook General Science as a supplementary subject when I was in the Special Class, it was entirelytheoretical. To remedy my ignorance of laboratory procedures, I had taken night-classes in Chemistryat Raffles Institution. I believe they were conducted as remedial classes for students doing poorly inschool because of poor teaching or poor facilities in their schools, and I found the going difficult, orperhaps I did not pay enough attention to the work. I scraped together enough know-how to pass thePre-registration test in Physics and Chemistry that was required of medical students.

I don’t know how I did it , but perhaps the examiners were lenient because of the war-time situation. (What would they do with a reject? Send him home?). I only understood later what a duffer I must have been when I realised that I should have diluted my test acid solution 1/10 before using it in titrations (the end-point went past zip with one drop), and that my physics, learned from my father’s old text dated 1910, were a bit antiquated. Still, much of Physics was Mechanics in Advance Maths that I knew well.

The first year subjects in British medical schools were Anatomy and Physiology, and students were required to have passed Physics, Chemistry and Biology at A Level before entering medical school. Edinburgh University provided a solution for students without such qualifications, and there were quite a number who had attended schools that did not have science laboratories, or who had taken Arts subjects and then decided later that they would study medicine. Such students enrolled for a double degree, in Science and in Medicine, taking courses for Science which at the same time qualified for the medical course, or subjects in the medical curriculum that were considered Science subjects as well. In the latter, I had to pass with Credit to score as a Science student. The majority of those who signed up with me for a double degree abandoned the science business as soon as they were established as medical students. I remember only James C. Gould, later the director of the Scottish Public Health Laboratories, who took the double degree with me and went the whole way.

First Year Science was Physics 1, Chemistry 1, Zoology 1 and Medical Botany (required on]of medical students). Those who took Chemistry in school had the advantage over me as the first term covered what they had learned in school, but after that we were on level ground. It was a grind, but I did well enough to score credits in all but Medical Botany. Phaik Lin did not do so well, and at the end of the year went to study at the Royal College of Surgeons which awarded a recognised medical qualification, but whose teaching was more practical than academic.

We University students tended to look down on the students at the Colleges but the prejudice was unjustified. The Colleges were the professional institutions whose senior qualifications were mandatory for medical specialists, but which retained the historic antagonism between physicians and surgeons in their respective domains. To be a consultant physician one would have to become a Member of the Royal College of Physicians, and to be a consultant surgeon one had to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. There is a rank of Fellow in the College of Physicians, but it is an honour conferred on distinguished Members and cannot be earned by examinations. The teachers in the Colleges held honorary consultant posts in the Edinburgh Infirmary and other teaching hospitals, alongside the University professors, and all had their own private practices where they earned their real income. Professor David Dunlop, our Professor of Clinical Medicine told us that there were three ways of getting rich as a doctor: “The first and easiest way for the lucky,” he said, “is to inherit money, the second and very tedious, is to work your butt off, the third and possibly enjoyable, is to marry money.” This always brought the house down because the students knew that Dunlop had married the heiress of McEwan Beer, a beverage popular enough to enable its proprietor to give Edinburgh the McEwan Hall, a large auditorium where concerts, conferences and graduation ceremonies were held. Professor Dunlop was gently pointing out to us that if we were not lucky in selecting either parents or spouse, then we jolly well had to slog.

Though we had shared the same lodgings and attended the same classes in my first year, i did not see so much of Phaik Lin when she went to study in the Colleges. When she moved, Chong Eu came to stay in my lodgings with me. My second year of study was my first year in medicine and my class-mates were those who came straight from school to University. They were at the age liable for military service, and Britain being at war, all were subject to conscription. During the First World War, enrolment in the army was voluntary at first and the flower of British youth perished in trenches and battlefields of France, amongst them Rupert Brook, the poet. At the outset of WW2 British government designated a number of essential services whose personnel were exempt from service because they were considered contributors to the war effort. Medical students, as budding doctors, were exempt from the general call-up provided they remain students. When they failedannual examinations, they were “sent down”, and soon after called-up for military service. Thus it was that from time to time a classmate who had flunked the examination we sat together would disappear from our ken, only to reappear some weeks later in uniform, usually to bid us farewell as he vbe posted overseas. The fear of failing my examinations never bothered me too much, I was so sure I was more than a match for my examiners. But I anticipate.