Howard Graeme Gibson was born on 20 May 1883 in Woolwich, London. He was the only son of Arthur Stanley and Mary Gibson, and had a younger sister, Phyllis, born in 1886. Gibson was educated at Felsted School, matriculated at London University in 1902, and graduated from Guy’s Hospital in 1907 as a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons and a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians. In June 1911 he married Ethel Beatrice Winter, the eldest daughter of Brigadier General Winter CB CMG and they had one daughter, born in April 1915.
Gibson was commissioned Lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps on 28 January 1907 and was promoted to Major in 1909. He specialised in pathology and bacteriology and, whilst stationed at Valletta Military Hospital in Malta in 1909, volunteered to demonstrate the transmission of sand-fly fever by being bitten by a sand-fly which had previously fed on a patient during the first day of his illness.
On the outbreak of the Great War, Gibson was mobilized with the 12th Royal Lancers before being deployed to France with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in August 1914. He was present at the Battle of the Marne and Aisne, before being injured by the bursting of a high explosive shell at the First Battle of Ypres. Having suffered a concussion of the spine, he was returned to England and, once recovered, was posted to the Vaccine Department of the Royal Army Medical College where he developed an anti-dysenteric sero-vaccine. In 1917 he returned to France, having been declared fit for service, and joined Colonel William Leishman as Assistant Adviser in Pathology at the BEF headquarters, working on the effects of the typhoid-parathyphoid A and B inoculation and the use of antitetanic serum. When the influenza epidemic broke out in Autumn 1918, Gibson was appointed head of a research team and, whilst engaged in this work, contracted influenza himself, dying of complications on 12 February 1919 at No 2 Stationary Hospital, Abbeville. Gibson was buried at Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension and is remembered on the Guys Hospital WW1 and WW2 Arch, Oxshott Memorial Cross, and the St Andrews Church, Men of Oxhsott and Canadian Forces Memorial.
Major Gibson’s death was recorded in March 1919 edition of the St Andrew’s, Oxshott, parish magazine as follows:
It is with very deep regret that we have to announce the death of Major Gibson, R.A.M.C., which occurred in France owing to pneumonia following influenza. He had served with distinction in the Great War ever since 1914, and was in the retreat from Mons. He came home for a while on sick leave, suffering from wounds, and shell-shock, and while in England he devoted his remarkable talents to bacteriological research. On his return to France he continued his studies with the special object of discovering the cause and cure of the influenza epidemic. He had just achieved success in this direction when he himself fell a victim to the disease, which he contracted through the culture on which he was experimenting. He did in a very real sense lay down his life for the sake of his brother men. We tender our deep and respectful sympathy to Mrs. Gibson in her sorrow, and we are proud to think that this heroic and disinterested man of science has been connected with our village.
St Andrew’s, Oxshott, Parish Magazine, March 1919, SHC Ref. 8909/8/1/4.
‘Gibson, Howard Graeme’, Kings College London, War Memorials, accessed 20 April 2017, http://www.kingscollections.org/warmemorials/guys-hospital/memorials/gibson-howard-graeme.
‘Medical Officers of the Malta Garrison’, British Army Medical Services and the Malta Garrison 1799-1979, accessed 20 April 2017, http://maltaramc.com/ramcoff/g/gibsonhg.html.