Robert was appointed Surgeon-Superintendent for the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1888. Here he was responsible for the injured among the thousands of workers during the construction period. Robert organised an efficient accident service by dividing the site into 3 sections, and establishing a hospital and first aid posts in each section. He staffed the hospitals with medical personnel trained in fracture management. Robert also personally operated on hundreds of casualties, which improved his skills and knowledge of fracture management.
At the outbreak of war Robert was mobilised as a Territorial Army surgeon where he could observe treatment of fractures in hospitals at the front and at home. He felt imporovements could be made, leading to the introduction of military orthopaedic hospitals. Robert was appointed Inspector of Military Orthopaedics, with responsibility for over 30,000 beds. He devised new procedures and changed the after care and rehabilitation of wounded soldiers, with a tremendous success rate.
In 1914 Robert worked in Alder Hey military hospital where he applied the techniques of civilian orthopaedic surgery to the limbs and spinal casualties of wounded soldiers. 400 beds were later reserved for this purpose.
6th January 1915
Colonel William Coates,
Major Robert Jones,
11 Nelson Street,
In reference to our correspondence and conversation, I have now pleasure in informing you that the War Office have authorised as many beds as are necessary up to 400, to be set apart at the Alder Hey Hospital for the accommodation of cases in Military Hospitals likely to benefit by special orthopaedic treatment. The War Office propose to issue a letter very shortly to the various hospitals on this subject.
Authority has been given for your mobilization to be in charge of the Surgical Division of this Institution, also that of Captain Amour to assist you. The Officer in Charge of the 1st Western General Hospital has been instructed to carry out this mobilization. Until such time as orthopaedic cases arrive, it is proposed that ordinary cases should be sent there. No doubt you will be willing to superintend the treatment of such cases in the meantime. The War Office have given authority for you to employ your regular splint maker, and the cost of the special apparatus, splints. Etc. will be charged against the public.
I am quite sure there will be a great field opened out, and that the authorities will be very grateful to you for placing your special knowledge at their service in this way.
I have the honour to be ,
Your obedient servant,
(Signed) William Coates,
For DDMS Western Command
24th December 1915
I am directed to inform you that approval has been given for Major R. Jones, Royal Army Medical Corps, Territorial Force, to proceed to France at an early date for the purpose of affording instructions in the methods of using the staff splints which have been introduced by him.
He should report himself on arrival to the Deputy Director Medical Services, Boulogne, for further instructions.
An embarkation permit is enclosed herewith.
I am ,
Your obedient Servant,
_ Medical Service
In 1916 Robert demonstrated the use of Thomas’s splints in casualty clearing stations in France. From then the Thomas’s caliper saved thousands of limbs, helped transport of the wounded and reduced deaths from this type of injury.
Robert also wrote two books on military orthopedics, which influenced the work of many doctors working on the Front.
Robert was promoted several times throughout the war, obtaining the rank of Major General.
After the war Robert switched his attention to child health, campaigning for better standards of care for fractures and orthopaedics and setting up orthopedic departments in many British teaching hospitals.
Robert died aged 75 in Llanfechain, Wales. After his death Robert’s ashes were scattered at Liverpool Cathedral.
Obituary in Liverpool Mercury from Jan 16 1933 notes:
“ One striking instance in the war is that without Robert Jones the Thomas Splint, invented by Hugh Own Thomas – a genius on whose principles Jones grafted the whole of the technique of modern aseptic surgery and thus became an infinitely greater man – would never have been inn use to the extent it was, as very few schools of medicine outside of Liverpool knew how to use it. The practical result of its universal use in the field was to reduce the mortality of gunshot wounds to the thigh from 82 per cent to 16 per cent.”
… Sir Robert founded the first orthopaedic service in any army in any country, allied or enemy. The home service for England began with 200 beds at Alder Hey in 1914. It ended in 1918 with 33000 beds throughout the country and more important trained orthopaedic surgeons to staff them.”