The Operating Theatre Technician
This title was given to the individual employed to carry the surgeon’s instruments, (In the early days of surgery they had to purchase their own) they were known as “Box Boys” or Box Man and they existed prior to the Second World War. 6
These could be required to attend three of the surgeons at the hospital, and according to E.S Pope, were recruited at times from the patients in the hospital who were paid 3d (3 old pennies) for every patient who was “bled”. Pope goes on to say however that this stopped at around 1813 when the surgeons appointed their own Box Carriers.
The Box Man would be required, as part of his duties, to ensure that the instruments were kept clean, and in good condition. In the case of saws, knives and scissors, it was his duty to keep them sharp! They had various other duties especially prior to the discovery of anaesthesia that is to act as an extra handler when the need arose.
It was also the tradition that the Box carrier used to carry the surgeons instruments onto the ward so that lesser operations could be carried out.
This task was also taken at one time by his Dresser, his junior assistant. It enabled the Dresser to have a front row view of the operation to be undertaken, and thus help him in his studies.
The practise of sharpening instruments carried on into the very early eighties.
Fred Wheedon MBE was first appointed as Box Boy at the Lambeth Hospital sometime during the late 1930s and soon afterwards he convened to the role of theatre attendant.
Fred Wheedon was the Membership Secretary of BAODA until just before his death in 1989. Sally Garner who to a lot of this information comes from replaced him. 12