Henry Albert John Gidney was born 9th June 1873 in Igatpuri. He was baptised at Saint Matthias Church to parents John & Margaret. At the time of the baptism John was an Engine Driver, GIPR after working his way up from excavating tunnels. Henry was brought up in a Methodist Faith and attended Baldwins Boys High School, Bangalore – which he later help to extend the building. Henry was then transferred to Saint Peters High School, Mazagaon where he finished his schooling. Gidney was top of his classes from a very young age & an all round sports man including Boxing, Billiards, Tennis & a big game hunter later on in life.
When Gidney finished his schooling he then joined the Indian Medical Department and was soon attending the Calcutta Medical College at a very young age of 16. While training at Calcutta he studied Intermediate Arts (Allahabad University) & later became President of the All India Arts & Crafts Society. He reached the top levels while at the Medical College beating every other student from all communities securing 5 gold medals & 6 honour certificates. The Indian Medial Department was a British Cadre & was only open to Anglo Indians & attached to the British Army. Henry’s dream was to join the senior service of the department- the Indian Medical Service, IMS.
After two years as an assistant civil surgeon he was granted a 6 month leave to proceed to London. When arriving Gidney took his entrance examinations & his results made yet another record. He sat several other inner hospital examinations but Gidney became short of money & he took up 3 of the 5 scholarships that were offered to him. After 6 months Henry decided to apply to the IMS & joined a coaching school halfway through the term but he still managed to pass the competitive exams.
Gidney returned to India as an IMS officer & in 1901. He saw active service in China (Boxer Rebellion) & was mentioned in the dispatches. Henry was granted another leave to train in F.R.C.S (Edinburgh) & D.P.H (Cambridge), which he achieved. Henry moved back to India in 1906 & was practicing as a civil surgeon in Eastern Bengal & Assam. Over the next 4 years he had increasing experience as an Ophthalmic Surgeon & spent his spare time on big game shoots with the families of princely states. He passed several more examinations in L.R.C.P, M.R.C.P & D.O (Oxon).
Henry soon became an elected fellow of the Royal Society, London. This made him the youngest man of that time to be given this honour & due to his time researching Ophthalmology at Oxford, he became a post graduate lecture in the subject & held the position for nearly 2 years before giving training to the staff at Oxford & London Eye hospitals.
When Gidney arrived back in India he was repeatedly subject to discrimination of race & colour & became the civil surgeon of Kohima in the Naga Hills, where he received major opposition from the Governor of the IMS & later the Inspector General of Civil Hospitals because Gidney killed all of his work while practicing in Dacca. Gidney disliked the discrimination & planned to resign at the earliest point he could, but the new Governor of Assam was so impressed by Gidney’s work he was moved from the smallest district to Sylhet. While in the large district of Sylhet he built up a large private practice. Gidney submitted his resignation due to securing an appointment at a London Eye Hospital. The War intervened & Gidney was posted to Peshawar & later to the North West Frontier where he saw active service & became the medical officer for the Rajputs when they had heavy casualties while invading the Shabkadar Fort. Gidney was wounded & soon recovered to be given a triple appointment which was a another record & finally became a senior surgeon at a War Hospital before gaining the rank of Lieutenant-colonel in 1917 & leaving the IMS after the Great War.