Skip to main page content (AccessKey S)
Honoria Somerville Keer lived from 26 December 1883 to 20 March 1969. She was a surgeon who served in the Scottish Women's Hospitals during the First World War. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Honoria Somerville Keer was born in Toronto in Canada. She was the daughter of Major General Jonathan Keer, previously a member of the Army in Bengal, and Eliza Somerville. From 1903 to 1910, Honoria studied medicine at the University of Glasgow, graduating with a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery. She then held posts at Glasgow Royal Asylum and in Kilmarnock.
In early 1915 Honoria volunteered to become an Assistant Medical Officer with the Scottish Women's Hospital for Foreign Service, going on to serve in military hospitals in France and Macedonia. In 1918 and 1919 she was Chief Medical Officer caring for Serbian refugees at L'hôpital des Dames Ecossaise in Ajaccio in Corsica. For her wartime service she was awarded the French Croix de Guerre and Médaille d'Honneur, and the Serbian Order of St Sava.
On returning to Britain, Honoria trained at the London School of Tropical Medicine. She was awarded a diploma in 1924 and the following year took up post as Lady Medical Officer in Lagos, Nigeria. She returned to London in 1934 suffering from hearing problems brought about by illness contracted while abroad.
During the Second World War, Honoria took an active part in Civil Defence, working with the Women's Voluntary Service. Amongst her other roles was the drafting of letters from the Queen thanking householders who had made accommodation available for evacuees from the cities during the blitz. She remained in London after the war, and died there in 1969.
This biography draws on research first published in "The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women".