Belfast Telegraph

Doctor awarded VC for bravery honoured with a Blue Plaque

By Adrian Rutherford

A soldier who braved heavy gunfire to aid wounded troops in the Middle East during the First World War will be honoured today.

John Alexander Sinton was a highly distinguished figure in the medical world, as an army doctor who saw service in both world wars and also a medical researcher.

He is the only person to achieve the Victoria Cross and be elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, which is composed of many of the world's top scientists.

His remarkable life will be marked today with the unveiling of the Ulster History Circle's latest Blue Plaque at Lissan Parish Church, near Cookstown.

It will be unveiled by the Brigadier's grandson, Nial Watson, 61 years to the date of his grandfather's funeral with full military honours, on March 28, 1956.

Captain Sinton was born in Canada but was brought by his parents to live in Northern Ireland. He was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and at Queen's University, Belfast where he studied medicine.

Later he joined the Medical Service of the Indian Army.

Captain Sinton was awarded the VC for bravery and devotion to duty on January 21, 1916 in Mesopotamia - now Iraq - where he tended the wounded under heavy fire, whilst injured himself.

Although shot through both arms and the side, he refused to go to hospital, attending to his duties under heavy fire.

He briefly retired again with the rank of Honorary Brigadier in 1943, but only for two weeks.

He was re-employed by the War Office as a consultant malariologist to advise on malaria.

A member of the Senate of Queen's University, he also served as a JP, High Sheriff and Deputy Lieutenant of Co Tyrone.

He died at his home at Slaghtfreedan Lodge in Cookstown.

In an obituary in the British Medical Journal, Col HW Mulligan observed that "Sinton had an exceptionally quick, receptive and retentive brain, and his greatness sprang not so much from his unusual intellectual gifts as from the simple qualities of absolute integrity and tremendous industry".

The Ulster History Circle is a charity which puts up blue plaques in public places to celebrate people of achievement.

Its chairman Chris Spurr said: "John Alexander Sinton VC, FRS is the only person ever to have received the highest award for gallantry, the Victoria Cross, and also to be elected Fellow of the Royal Society. The Ulster History Circle is delighted to commemorate this distinguished soldier and physician with a Blue Plaque to his unique achievements."

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