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Alan Sinclair Darvall Barton (1886–1950)

by William A. Land

This article was published:

Alan Sinclair Darvall Barton (1886-1950), medical practitioner, was born on 12 March 1886 at Bathurst, New South Wales, son of Robert Darvall Barton, grazier and author of Reminiscences of an Australian Pioneer (Sydney, 1917), and his wife Fanny Blanche, a daughter of John Smith, sheep-breeder; he was a first cousin of A. B. Paterson. Educated at All Saints' College, Bathurst, and the University of Sydney (M.B., Ch.B., 1909; Ch.M., 1910), he became resident medical officer and registrar at Sydney Hospital in 1910-11. Two years later he began private practice at Coonabarabran.

When World War I broke out Barton enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and was commissioned captain, Australian Army Medical Corps, on 14 November 1914; he was posted to the 2nd Australian General Hospital and sailed for Egypt. After serving with the 1st Australian Division at Mena Camp, he joined No. 1 Australian Casualty Clearing Station at Anzac Beach in September 1915. Plans for the Allied withdrawal from Gallipoli assumed that the badly wounded would be left behind and taken out later under the Red Cross flag; Barton's offer to stay with them was accepted. As it turned out, all the wounded were evacuated on 20 December and he commanded one of the last medical parties to leave the beach. He rejoined his clearing station at Serapeum, Egypt, and accompanied it to France in April 1916. It was soon to deal with the heavy casualties from the battle of Fromelles.

In France Barton quickly gained a reputation as a skilful and dedicated surgeon and spent most of his time in casualty clearing stations close to the front lines. The demands made on surgical teams were extreme; they often worked shifts of sixteen to twenty-four hours in the operating theatres, and at the same time were required to keep pace with new developments in the treatment of wounds. In August Barton was attached to a British station near Amiens where many gas and gangrene victims were treated. Promoted major on 14 November, he was transferred next month to No.2 Australian Casualty Clearing Station at Armentières; he was still there in June 1917 when casualties poured in from the battle of Messines. In that month the station admitted over 7000 casualties, evacuated almost as many again, and performed over 1000 operations. Barton was mentioned in dispatches in June and December and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order on 1 January 1918. He remained at Armentières until March and was then posted to the 2nd Australian General Hospital at Boulogne. His final service was with a British clearing station near Péronne during the final attacks on the Hindenburg Line; on 28 December he was again mentioned in dispatches.

In February 1919 Barton married Dorothy Ellena Duffy at St Philip's Anglican Church, Sydney. His A.I.F. service ended in March, and in August he published a paper on his work in Allied casualty clearing stations; this drew attention to new techniques for the closure of wounds and to the use of gas and oxygen as anaesthetics. Late that year he settled at Singleton and over the next twenty-six years built up an extensive private practice. He became a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in 1928. In 1946 he retired to Gosford and, survived by his wife, a son and three daughters, died of coronary occlusion on 18 May 1950.

Select Bibliography

  • A. G. Butler, Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services in the War of 1914-1918 (Melb, 1930, Canb, 1940)
  • W. A. Steel and J. M. Antill, The History of All Saints' College, Bathurst, 1873-1963 (Syd, 1964)
  • London Gazette, 1 June, 24 Dec 1917, 1 Jan, 28 Dec 1918
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 23 Aug 1919
  • Barton papers (Australia War Memorial).

Citation details

William A. Land, 'Barton, Alan Sinclair Darvall (1886–1950)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

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