Noel McKinstry

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Noel McKinstry in his Navy days

Dr Robert Noel McKinstry OBE was Jersey's Medical Officer of Health between 1939 and 1957. According to historian Louise Willmott, he was also involved with every major form of organised resistance in Jersey during the Nazi occupation.

Early Years

Noel McKinstry (1892-1961) was born in Armagh in Northern Ireland, and graduated from Queens University Belfast in 1914. He served with the Royal Navy between 1914 and 1919, obtaining a doctorate in public health during his service. His particular interest was in pulmonary disease.

During the 1920s he served for six years as deputy commissioner of public health in Shanghai, China. This was curtailed by a period of ill-health.

Moving to Jersey

McKinstry came to Jersey in 1929, and was appointed as school medical officer, rising in the mid-1930s to assistant medical officer of health. He succeeded to the post of MOH in 1939 on the death of his superior.

The Occupation

During the occupation McKinstry was responsible for all the arrangements for safeguarding the health of islanders. These had to be carried out with the co-operation of the German medical officers and included organizing the purchase of drugs and of essential medical supplies from France. He was also largely responsible for preventing the German occupying forces from evacuating 450 patients from the Mental Hospital at St Saviour in 1942.

McKinstry also fought hard to ensure that products such as butter and milk were kept in the island. That he got his way was a considerable achievement given that in most other parts of Europe the German occupying forces requisitioned food at will.

Perhaps his greatest achievement came after the arrival in August 1942 of slave labourers brought in by the Organisation Todt. Of the various nationalities the Russians suffered the worst ill-treatment. At great personal risk McKinstry organized the issue of false papers and ration books to those prisoners who escaped and were sheltered by islanders. McKinstry later extended this service to islanders on the run from the German authorities.

In recognition of his acts of humanity, the Soviet Union presented McKinstry's widow with a commemorative watch at the Soviet Embassy in London in 1966.

After the War

McKinstry continued to have a major impact on the island's health in his later years. He instituted the islands BCG scheme to screen for tuberculosis, and also a mass miniature radiography scheme. He was also involved in the States project to create a modern sewerage system.

McKinstry retired as MOH in Jersey in 1957, but until his sudden death in Cape Town he acted as MOH to the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Tidereach.


  • Mckinstry's obituary in the BMJ
  • Paul Sanders, The British Channel Islands under German Occupation, 1940-5 (Jersey, JHT, 2005)
  • Louise Willmot, The Goodness of Strangers: Help to Escaped Russian Slave Labourers in Occupied Jersey, 1942-1945 in Contemporary European History vol 11, No 2 (Cambridge, CUP, 2002)
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