Fred Bowerbank was born in Penrith, Cumberland. After practising for a few years in London, including an appointment as a senior house physician at the Royal Free Hospital, he emigrated to New Zealand in 1907. He built up in Wellington a growing general practice, in which he was involved until World War I and his move to military service in 1915. He had a distinguished record in the Middle East and France, holding the posting as officer in charge of New Zealand General Hospital in Cairo and Brokenhurst between 1915 and 1917. His MD thesis, written in service conditions, was on the subject of intestinal diseases among New Zealand troops on Gallipoli and in Egypt (1915 to 1916).
Soon after war service he decided to relinquish general practice. After postgraduate work in Edinburgh and London, he returned to New Zealand to be the first cardiologist entering specialist practice in Wellington. Thereafter he was actively engaged in consultant practice to within hours of his death. His numerous public appointments as a physician included honorary physician to Our Lady's Home of Compassion (1907 to 1925), honorary physician, Wellington Hospital (1912 to 1925) and honorary visiting cardiologist, Wellington Hospital (1925 to 1940). It is perhaps important to emphasise that all these appointments were without remuneration.
Between the Wars, Fred continued his special interest in the armed services and from the outbreak of World War II in 1939, he was most appropriately appointed Director-General of Medical and Dental Services (Army and Air), which position he held until his retirement in 1947, with the rank of major-general. He received a knighthood in 1945, in recognition of his work during the war years, and in the same year was appointed Grand Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau. In this period, he had received other distinctions in his appointment as honorary physician to the Governor General (1935 to 1939), and honorary physician to His Majesty George VI (1939 to 1947). In the wider scene he was chairman of council of the New Zealand branch of the British Medical Association (1938 to 1940). He had broad community interests and invariably made a distinguished contribution.
He had a number of publications with a services context, of special interest being 'The Lull Between the Wars' written for the 50th anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Army Medical Corps, and Sir Fred's autobiography, 'A Doctor's Story' (1958). A paper on auricular fibrillation was published in the 'New Zealand Medical Journal' (1928). He made important contributions in the early formative period of the RACP in New Zealand, being sometime chairman of the Dominion committee, a censor, and finally Dominion vice-president (1944 to 1946).
Fred's professional career is particularly distinguished by his major contributions to the organisation and efficiency of the medical services of the armed forces in two World Wars, and in the Territorial Army during the interval between the Wars. It pays a special tribute to the breadth of his talents to say that he also practised as a cardiologist for more than 40 years, being a pioneer and an entrepreneur in cardiology which, in his time, was a developing sub-specialty in clinical medicine.
Fred was survived by his wife, Maud, whom he had married in 1907, at the time when they left London for New Zealand. They did not have children. Apart from a life of deep involvement for 33 years with the concerns of the medical services in the armed forces, we should perhaps remember Sir Fred Bowerbank for his commitment and devotion to the physician's basic responsibilities. His terminal cerebrovascular episode began during a consultation less than 48 hours before his death. After a brief period of unconsciousness he completed his patient's documentation and quietly proceeded home to prepare for his end with the dignity which characterised this distinguished colleague.
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