EDINBURGH UNIVERSITY MEDICAL STUDENT… SERVED WITH ROYAL ARMY MEDICAL CORPS (RAMC)… BECAME ADVISOR ON ‘WAR NEUROSIS’ AND SHELL SHOCK TO THE BRITISH WAR OFFICE…
William Aldren Turner was born in Edinburgh, 5 May 1864. He was the son of the Principal of Edinburgh University, Sir William Turner, and his wife Agnes. The younger Turner was educated at Fettes College, and then he studied at Edinburgh University as a medical student. He graduated as M.B., C.M., with first-class honours, in 1887, and then completed a term as house physician at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
He also studied as a postgraduate in Berlin and at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. He was awarded his M.D. in 1892.
In 1892 Turner was appointed as an assistant to David Ferrier (1843-1928), and as a demonstrator and then lecturer in neuropathology, at King’s College, London. In 1896 be was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (London), and in 1899 he was elected assistant physician to King’s College Hospital. Nine years later he became physician in charge of neurological cases and lecturer on neurology.
For six years he was also on the staff of the National Hospital for the Paralysed and Epileptic. He published Epilepsy, a Study of the Idiopathic Disease (1907), and with Grainger Stewart, a Textbook of Nervous Diseases (1910). He married Helen Mary Mackenzie in 1909.
As a Territorial officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), Turner had been rushed to France in December 1914 as a temporary Lieutenant-Colonel (Special Duty) when it became clear that ‘nervous and mental shock’ casualties were multiplying. He was one of the few doctors at the National Hospital with first-hand experience of casualties in France.
As a consultant both at King’s College Hospital and the National Hospital, he was responsible for devising a management strategy for shell shock and in January 1915 (through to 1919) he was appointed consultant neurologist to the War Office. He was created C.B. in 1917, the same year he was elevated to Colonel.
Turner acted as neurologist to the War Office Medical Board from 1919 to 1943 – the principal advisor to the government in these matters – and from 1930 to 1943 as consultant adviser to the Ministry of Pensions.
In 1921 he was awarded the King Albert Medal (Koning Albert Medaille / Médaille du Roi Albert) by Belgium. This was a medal established by Belgian royal decree on 7 April 1919 and it was awarded to both Belgians and foreigners who were exceptionally meritorious in promoting, organising or administering humanitarian and charitable work that assisted Belgians in need during the First World War.
In recognition of valuable services rendered during the War, he was also presented with an award by the British Red Cross and the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in England, and in 1919 he was given an OBE.