Travelling Surgical Society of Great Britain and Ireland

The Travelling Surgical Society of Great Britain and Ireland, now in its 100th year, is a group of surgeons from around the United Kingdom that travels to various hospitals and surgical departments around the world and in the UK. Academic and clinical meetings encourage educational and surgical exchanges.

The current membership consists of about thirty surgeons of whom twenty are in active practice. The society has always maintained strong links to military surgery  Several of the active members are Professors of Surgery, demonstrating that we place great emphasis on academic content in our meetings.


Our organisation was founded in 1924 by a group of British surgeons who had worked in France during the First World War in the Casualty Clearing Stations of the Royal Army Medical Corps.  Meeting surgeons from elsewhere they realised that British surgery was somewhat isolated from that of other countries. To remedy this they formed the Travelling Surgical Club, the object of which was to travel every year to a foreign country and meet colleagues with whom they could share knowledge and exchange opinions. This idea was warmly supported by Sir Berkeley (later Lord) Moynihan, President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, who agreed to become the Club’s first President.

In those early days, members had to have served in the Armed Forces. Between the Wars, fourteen trips were made to seven different countries. Two home centres in the UK were also visited. An account of each meeting, particularly the scientific sessions, is produced as a historical record in an annual Report: sometimes our hosts are surprised at what we know of their predecessors!  Following the Second World War, the Club re-formed as before. Sir Clement Price Thomas (a pioneer thoracic surgeon, who operated on King George VI) became its President in 1952.

The Academic Meetings

We usually hold one meeting at a centre of excellence abroad in May.   We spend a day at three or more hospitals; the programme includes a mutual presentation of scientific/clinical papers.  In 1958 a visit to a member’s home centre was added, which became customary each autumn.  We particularly value the presence of medical students and junior doctors, from whom we get the flavour of modern surgical training. Our presentations include topics and research of current clinical interest and also the funding and delivery of surgical care, matters of competence and training, the use of teaching techniques, audit and governance, as well as subjects of perennial interest, including the history of surgery itself – in short, anything that touches remotely on the modern practice of surgery!


The membership of the Society consists of about 20 active members in surgical practice, many with a gastro-intestinal, vascular, urological or plastic interest. Our Members are a mix of academic and clinical surgeons from teaching / university and district hospitals all over Britain. Currently, we do not have an orthopaedic or a neuro-surgeon.  We also have surgeons from the Armed Services with wide experience of the management of trauma, some of it from conflicts such as the Falklands, Gulf War, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 2023 meetings were in May to Cork, Ireland and in September to Guernsey.

The Centenary meeting will be held at the Royal Society of Medicine, London in September 2024

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness. Broad, wholesome, charitable views cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth"

Mark Twain

"When men of sober age travel, they gather knowledge which they may apply usefully in their country" 

Thomas Jefferson

"In our age such great usefulness redounds to the physician from his travels that none puts much faith in the authority of the physician who has not set foot outside his native land, and, although each may have at home in abundance those things which are necessary for medical instruction, nevertheless they ought to be strengthened or increased by a comparison with things abroad.

There is a vast delight and pleasure in gazing upon foreign lands and fields, mountains and rivers, observing the benignity of Nature's variety everywhere, the different conditions of the sick in homes and in hospitals with their great number of beds, which can readily be seen here and there, examining the methods for treating the patients, enjoying the conversation of the learned men, and calling forth their experiences, and visiting the laboratories, the furnaces of the chemists, the pharmacies and the unguent shops."

Thomas Bartholin, Danish anatomist (1616 -1680) on medical travel

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