Now a growing department with more than 400 people spread across three main sites, NDORMS owes its existence to Gathorne R. Girdlestone who became the first Nuffield Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, in 1937. However, Professor Girdlestone's history at Oxford had begun much earlier.
With the outbreak of World War I, the wounded soldiers returning from the front lines of one of the deadliest conflicts the world has ever seen needed treatment. In 1914, the Wingfield Convalescent Home - now the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre (NOC) site - joined the British war efforts and became a sectional military hospital under the 3rd Southern General Hospital, which was based in the Examination Schools in High Street.
Young surgeon G. R. Girdlestone was posted to the 3rd Southern General Hospital as a Captain in 1915; he soon realised the need for a fresh-air annexe to the Examination Schools, to fight the risk of infection. He found the ideal place for this in Headington, next to the Wingfield Convalescent Home. By 1916 the wooden huts that were to shape the layout of the hospital until the 1930s, had been erected.
It was also in 1916 that G. R. Girdlestone was put in charge of the Wingfield Convalescent Home, which included an orthopaedic workshop and operating theatre. The hospital remained part of the War Office until the end of the war, in 1918.
An outstanding surgeon and clinician, Girdlestone was also an excellent administrator with great vision. After the war, he joined the hospital committee and led the development of clinical excellence in orthopaedic treatment worldwide - particularly for children - at what would later become the NOC.
The beginning of Girdlestone's friendship with Sir William Morris, later Lord Nuffield, marked a further milestone in the history of orthopaedics in Oxford. In 1933, still under Girdlestone's leadership and after major rebuilding of the hospital made possible by Lord Nuffield, the Wingfield Convalescent Home became the Wingfield-Morris Hospital, a world famous specialist orthopaedic hospital.
It would come as no surprise that when Lord Nuffield endowed £2 million for five clinical chairs at Oxford University, Girdlestone became the first Nuffield Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and laid the foundation for what NDORMS is today.