Group Captain Hugh Corner was an outstanding officer in the Royal Air Force medical branch, for in addition to being highly qualified medically he was a first-class pilot who made a personal study of air crew in actual operations against the enemy. It was in this capacity that he was killed in action over the English Channel.
He was born in Inverness, the son of William Corner, a banker of Inverness, by his second wife, Hedwig Dorothea Just. He spent his boyhood in the town and was perhaps happiest when on long rambles or cross-country runs. From Inverness High School and Royal Academy he went to Aberdeen University, but interrupted his studies by serving in France from 1917 to 1919 as a second lieutenant with first the Royal North Lancashire Regiment and then the Cameron Highlanders. On his return he was awarded his half-blue for running the mile.
After a house post at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and two years in general practice at Bournemouth he took a short service commission and was posted to the Central Pathology Laboratory at Halton, Bucks., for training in clinical pathology, tropical medicine and hygiene. In 1925 he was appointed pathologist to the R.A.F. Hospital in Baghdad for three years, during which he was promoted to flight lieutenant and granted a permanent commission.
From 1928 to 1931 he served at Cranwell, where he qualified as a pilot in 1930. Eighteen months as a member of the Central Medical Establishment and a brief stay at the Fighter Station, Biggin Hill, preceded his return from 1933 to 1935 to his previous post in Baghdad. In 1937, after two years at Inland Area Command, he was posted to 24 Group, Training Command, where he was a wing commander when war was declared in 1939.
As senior medical officer to 51 Group, Flying Training Command, his excellent work in raising the efficiency and morale of trainees brought him the award of the Air Force Cross, and a posting to headquarters of Fighter Command for special medical duties with flying personnel in the rank of acting group captain. Now he felt it essential to fly with his charges, who considered him one of themselves whose advice stemmed from personal experience. On his last sortie his machine was hit and when he was forced to bale out his parachute opened only at the last moment before impact with the water; the sea rescue service failed to find him.
Corner was a handsome black-haired Highlander of average height, with a well-knit, athletic figure and a keen critical mind. He was a delightful companion and a most loyal friend. He was married twice; first in 1920 to Margaret Gordon, daughter of the Rev. John Gordon, M.A., of Aberdeen, by whom he had a daughter; second in 1935 to Vera Lamb, a regular member of the Princess Mary’s R.A.F. Nursing Service and the daughter of Charles Percival Lamb, a department manager with the Norwich Union Insurance, by whom he had a son.
Richard R Trail
[Brit.med.J., 1942, 1, 807; 1942, 2, 381; Lancet, 1942, 2, 353 (p).]