The Daily Telegraph
Ship’s surgeon who carried out vital work in the Falklands War
DR TEDDY MAYNER, who has died aged 84, was the ship’s surgeon in SS Canberra when she was taken up from trade for the Falklands War in 1982.
Mayner was the surgeon, or civilian medical officer, in the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s flagship, which was returning from a world cruise when, on April 3, the day after the Argentines invaded the Falkland Islands, he heard that she was to make an unexpected call at Gibraltar.
There, her master Dennis Scott-masson and his officers learnt that the Ministry of Defence wished to requisition Canberra for use as a troopship. She sailed to Southampton, where her passengers disembarked. She was refitted, and sailed on April 9.
In her white livery,
Canberra, soon nicknamed “the Great White Whale”, carried 5,200 men of the Royal Marines and Paras to the war zone. Canberra’s crew, including 15 females, volunteered to stay on board.
Mayner’s small medical team – a second surgeon, two nurses and a dispenser – normally cared for the crew in accordance with maritime law, while the paying passengers formed Mayner’s private practice. He was ahead of his time in the 1970s when as ship’s surgeon he shared with his staff the fees collected.
On the voyage south in 1982, Mayner motivated and inspired his team to integrate with the newly embarked naval and military medical teams, helping to rig wards and medical facilities throughout the ship, and he started lunchtime seminars addressing the health hazards and injuries likely if
Canberra were attacked.
Despite her size and lack of camouflage, overnight on May 20/21, Canberra entered San Carlos Water, carrying a significant part of the British landing force. Later, she steamed to South Georgia, where 3,000 troops were transferred from Queen Elizabeth 2 to be landed at San Carlos on June 2.
Over the next few weeks
Canberra received 172 patients, both British and Argentine, some seriously wounded; 84 operations were performed, and all patients recovered. In addition, 5,189 laboratory tests and 172 X-rays were done and 1,310 pints of blood were collected (one Marine said he hoped he would not need his back later). Mayner’s team gave advice,
conducted blood tests, visited patients and even gave veterinary advice about a malingering parrot in MV Elk.
Once the islands had been liberated, Canberra became a cartel, carrying 4,200 prisoners of war to Puerto Madryn in Patagonia. Many of the wounded were cared for by Mayner and his team, and his unlikely passengers were so impressed by their treatment that they wrote letters of thanks.
On July 11, Canberra returned to Southampton to a hero’s welcome.
Peter Edward Mayner was born at Harborne in Birmingham on December 17 1938 and brought up in Malvern by his widowed mother. Educated at Haileybury, he studied Classics at Trinity College, Cambridge, and then Medicine at Queen Elizabeth Medical School in Birmingham.
Mayner worked at hospitals in Stratford-uponavon and Hereford as a house physician, obtaining further qualifications before joining P&O in January 1973. Over the next 20 years he served in a number of P&O and Princess ships, but in the early 1990s he took early retirement due to ill health. He continued to practise from his home near Malvern, conducting medical fitness examinations for seafarers.
He took a keen interest in local affairs, was a trustee and medical adviser to a local charity, Arcos (Association for Rehabilitation of Communication and Oral Skills), and helped to write two books of village history. He played rugby, cricket, squash and tennis at college and university, belonged to the Cambridge Underwater Exploration Society and learnt to fly with the University of Birmingham Air Squadron. Latterly, he took up bowls.
He married Elizabeth Morris in 1977; she survives him with their daughter.
Teddy Mayner, born December 17 1938, died January 20 2023