Surgeon Robert Noel McKinstry OBE RFA

Robert Noel McKinstry was born on 25 December 1892 in Tandragee, County Armagh, Northern Ireland and graduated from Queens University, Belfast in 1914

On 23 Oct 1914 he was appointed a Temporary Surgeon Lieutenant in the Royal Navy until 1919 during which time he obtained a doctorate in public health.

His particular interest was in pulmonary disease. During his service in the Royal Navy he was appointed to HMS Marlborough and the Hospital Ship Agadir

Surgeon Robert N McKinstry OBE MD DPH RFA

Surgeon Lieutenant Robert N McKinstry Royal Navy


During the 1920’s he served for six years as deputy commissioner of public health in Shanghai, China but this time was curtailed by a period of ill-health

In 1929 he moved to the Island of Jersey and was appointed as school medical officer, rising in the mid-1930s to Assistant Medical Officer of Health. He succeeded to the post of Medical Officer of Health in 1939 on the death of his superior

During the Second World War and the German occupation of Jersey McKinstry was responsible for all the arrangements for safeguarding the health of islanders. These had to be carried out with the co-operation of the German medical officers and included organizing the purchase of drugs and of essential medical supplies from France. He was also largely responsible for preventing the German occupying forces from evacuating 450 patients from the Mental Hospital at St Saviour in 1942

McKinstry also fought hard to ensure that products such as butter and milk were kept on the island. That he got his will was a considerable achievement given that in most other parts of Europe the German occupying forces requisitioned food at will

Perhaps his greatest achievement came after the arrival in August 1942 of slave labourers brought in by the German ‘Organisation Todt’. Of the various nationalities the Russians suffered the worst ill-treatment. At great personal risk McKinstry organized the issue of false papers and ration books to those prisoners who had escaped and were sheltered by islanders. McKinstry later extended this service to islanders on the run from the German authorities

On 11 December 1945 he was appointed an Officer of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services rendered during the enemy occupation of the Channel Islands.

In recognition of his acts of humanity, the Soviet Union presented McKinstry’s widow with a commemorative watch at the Soviet Embassy in London in 1966. The watch was given to the Jersey War Tunnels in 2010

Surgeon Robert N McKinstry 

Surgeon Robert N McKinstry OBE RFA

McKinstry continued to have a major impact on the island’s health in his later years. He instituted the islands BCG scheme to screen for tuberculosis, and also a mass miniature radiography scheme. He was also involved in the States of Jersey project to create a modern sewerage system.

McKinstry retired as MOH in Jersey in 1957 having twice been Chairman of the Jersey Division of the British Medical Association, once before and once after the 2nd World War.

In the very late 1950’s Robert McKinstry joined the RFA as a Surgeon serving on RFA Fort Constantine and by 1961 he had been appointed to RFA Tidereach. On 6 March 1961 when the ship was at Simonstown Dockyard, South Africa Surgeon McKinstry was admitted to hospital in Cape Town suffering from a coronary thrombosis from which he subsequently died.

Surgeon Robert McKinstry is buried in Dido Valley Royal Naval Cemetery, Simonstown, South Africa