Valiant vet with great sense of style

Michael Pollitt, obituaries editorNorfolk veterinary surgeon Jimmy Phillips, who was twice mentioned in dispatches in the second world war, has died aged 92.He served in Burma, where he was responsible for looking after mules, then the only effective beast of burden in the intense behind-the-lines fighting against the Japanese.Michael Pollitt, obituaries editor

Norfolk veterinary surgeon Jimmy Phillips, who was twice mentioned in dispatches in the second world war, has died aged 92.

He served in Burma, where he was responsible for looking after mules, then the only effective beast of burden in the intense behind-the-lines fighting against the Japanese.

Born in Aberdeen in 1917, he never knew his father, who was killed in the closing stages of the first world war.

He went to the Royal Veterinary College, Edinburgh, in 1933 and, after qualifying in 1938, joined a practice in Darlington looking after pit ponies.


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After Dunkirk, he tried to join the army but working vets were not all-owed to volunteer. After persuading a senior partner to sack him, he spent his first 18 months in the Royal Artill-ery manning a gun on the south coast.

By then the army was desperate for qualified vets. When his name came up, he was "volunteered" and sent to the Far East by troopship to serve in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps.

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It was more than four years later that he first saw his son, James. Ironically, his mother and stepfather returned home from India at the same time by ship.

He was demobbed as a captain in the veterinary corps and joined the Norwich practice, then headed by Harry Standley, in Orford Place. With petrol still rationed, he kept a horse in the yard and was often seen riding along Ber Street on his rounds.

He later succeeded the late John McLintock, himself a senior partner, as the practice had expanded in 1963 into new premises in Chapelfield.

Always a large-animal vet, he was president of the Eastern Counties Veterinary Society; during his two-year term, the profession's national congress was held in Norwich.

At 65, he retired as senior partner then became official veterinary surgeon to Bernard Matthews until forced by advancing age to retire. As the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreaks spread, he volunteered again, but the ministry of agriculture was reluctant to take on a retired veterinary surgeon in his mid-80s, even with first-hand experience of the disease.

He enjoyed racing, even more so when a filly in his syndicate, Torgau, owned with friend Peter Charlton, won the Cherry Hinton Stakes at Newmarket. He also took up golf, and was a president of Eaton Golf Club.

A talented pianist and ballroom dancer, he was always lively company. In recent years he had been a companion of Betty Barrett, of Felthorpe. And, close to his 90th birthday, it gave him enormous pleasure to win with her the prize at the 2007 Royal Norfolk Show for best-dressed couple.

His son James, who was chief veterinary officer of the RSPCA, and wife Ena both predeceased. He leaves a grandson and daughter and three- great grandsons.

A funeral service will be held at City of Norwich Crematorium on Thursday, January 28; noon.

Michael Pollitt

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