Lt Col Tom Pollak, doctor and paratrooper who served in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq – obituary

diverman

LE
Book Reviewer
From today's Daily Telegraph, I'm sure some on here may have known him. Mods please move if in the wrong forum

Lt Col Tom Pollak, doctor and paratrooper who served in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq – obituary​


He designed an airborne ambulance, was one of the Army’s best shots, and served in Oman, where he kept a collection of venomous creatures


By Telegraph Obituaries 7 June 2021 • 12:08pm

Tom Pollak

Tom Pollak

Lieutenant Colonel Tom Pollak, who has died aged 74, was unusual in being both a practising medical doctor and a Major and Officer Commanding a company of paratroopers.
Thomas Edward Pollak was born in Varnsdorf, Czechoslovakia, on January 29 1947 to a Czech father and an English mother. When he was 17 his father died, and his mother returned to England with Thomas and his two brothers.
He arrived speaking little English, but was possessed of a fierce determination to do well, and quickly developed both impeccable English and impeccable manners – hallmarks for the remainder of his life.
He studied Medicine at Sheffield University and while there joined the OTC before commissioning into the B Company of the 4th Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, Territorial & Army Volunteer Reserve (4 Para) in Oldham.
Pollak was a natural soldier with exceptional physical fitness, and a crack shot. Although he loved medicine and continued to work in NHS hospitals during his time in the TA, he revelled in the camaraderie and the physical and mental challenges of life as a Para.
He was soon organising and training teams for marching and shooting competitions, such as the Cambrian March, in which the Paras were particularly successful. So fit and skilled were his teams that they frequently outshone the regular army competition during the four-day event.
Pollak, front row, third right, with the 1 Para shooting team at Bisley in 1982

Pollak, front row, third right, with the 1 Para shooting team at Bisley in 1982
By 1977 Pollak was a major and Officer Commanding a company of paratroopers. He often came under pressure to transfer to the Royal Army Medical Corps and a more conventional TA career. Instead, in 1978 he decided to temporarily forsake medicine and try for the regular SAS.
To prepare himself he resigned his commission, enlisted as a private soldier in the regular Parachute Regiment and was assigned to the 3rd Battalion (3 Para). He attended SAS selection in 1980 and passed the initial phase. However, the authorities then realised that his Czech origins, which included compulsory membership of the Communist youth movement, would preclude him from passing the positive vetting demanded of all SAS soldiers, and to his dismay he was returned to 3 Para.
The Commanding Officer of 22 SAS, who appealed the decision, observed that he would have been a “great asset to the SAS, [but] the men in suits decided otherwise, to the benefit of the Paras”. The decision was ironic given Pollak’s hatred of communism.

Pollak then commissioned into the 1st Battalion (1 Para). He captained their very successful shooting team at Bisley and other Skill at Arms meetings, and in 1982 he was one of seven of their number who made the Army 100 (the top 100 rifle shots). He was also a very competent pistol shot.

When on leave Pollak would often moonlight as a locum in hospitals. On one occasion a friend observed that the nurses adored him because when a drunken yob had abused and assaulted them he had stepped in and knocked the culprit out cold. He enjoyed the sobriquet of “the Mad Para Doctor” bestowed by “the lads” in his battalion.
Pollak in 2011 near Arnhem after making his final static-line parachute jump: he was thought to have held the Army record at the time for the most such jumps

Pollak in 2011 near Arnhem after making his final static-line parachute jump: he was thought to have held the Army record at the time for the most such jumps
Pollack then transferred into the RAMC before accepting a four-year posting as the regimental medical officer with the Sultan’s Special Force in Oman, where he kept a collection of venomous snakes, tarantulas and camel spiders. Upon returning from Oman he commanded 16 (Lincoln) Company, 4 Para, while working as an anaesthetist for the NHS.

Between 1990 and 1997 he served with 23 Parachute Field Ambulance in a variety of roles, including forming and commanding its Special Forces Troop. He was the principal designer of a mobile operating theatre for use by Special Forces which fitted into the confines of a Hercules C-130 aircraft.

Never pompous about rank, he threw a memorable party the fourth time he was promoted to major. A fellow officer described him as “something of a Peter Pan figure who never grew up”, while another felt that he “simply enjoyed everything he did [and] really enjoyed helping his fellow man”. When he found that a fellow officer’s cholesterol was somewhat high, he recommended drinking red wine and promptly took the man to a wine bar near Charing Cross, where they proceeded to enjoy several bottles of claret.
Whatever Pollak did he did well. He was renowned for his fitness, and as well as being an experienced and skilled mountaineer and alpine skier he was a fell runner, completing more than 50 fell and mountain marathons.

Pollak qualified as a GP in 1990, and later as a GP trainer. In the late 1990s he developed leukaemia but he continued to work during his treatment, and regained his incredible fitness and returned to full duties.
Promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1997, he served at Shape in Belgium and later as Commander Medical London District. He saw active service in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. He was senior medical officer, 16 Medical Regiment, in Colchester, before his final Army job as the SMO at Wellington Barracks.
Still parachuting in his early sixties, when Pollak finally retired in 2011 he was reputed to hold the record for the highest number of static-line parachute descents. He was immensely proud of having been an “in-date” military parachutist for 41 years.

In 2020 he endured a difficult six weeks with Covid but recovered and returned to work as a local GP in July that year.

Tom Pollak was unmarried but is survived by a daughter.
Tom Pollak, born January 29 1947, died March 15 2021
 
From today's Daily Telegraph, I'm sure some on here may have known him. Mods please move if in the wrong forum

Lt Col Tom Pollak, doctor and paratrooper who served in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq – obituary​


He designed an airborne ambulance, was one of the Army’s best shots, and served in Oman, where he kept a collection of venomous creatures


By Telegraph Obituaries 7 June 2021 • 12:08pm

Tom Pollak

Tom Pollak

Lieutenant Colonel Tom Pollak, who has died aged 74, was unusual in being both a practising medical doctor and a Major and Officer Commanding a company of paratroopers.
Thomas Edward Pollak was born in Varnsdorf, Czechoslovakia, on January 29 1947 to a Czech father and an English mother. When he was 17 his father died, and his mother returned to England with Thomas and his two brothers.
He arrived speaking little English, but was possessed of a fierce determination to do well, and quickly developed both impeccable English and impeccable manners – hallmarks for the remainder of his life.
He studied Medicine at Sheffield University and while there joined the OTC before commissioning into the B Company of the 4th Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, Territorial & Army Volunteer Reserve (4 Para) in Oldham.
Pollak was a natural soldier with exceptional physical fitness, and a crack shot. Although he loved medicine and continued to work in NHS hospitals during his time in the TA, he revelled in the camaraderie and the physical and mental challenges of life as a Para.
He was soon organising and training teams for marching and shooting competitions, such as the Cambrian March, in which the Paras were particularly successful. So fit and skilled were his teams that they frequently outshone the regular army competition during the four-day event.
Pollak, front row, third right, with the 1 Para shooting team at Bisley in 1982

Pollak, front row, third right, with the 1 Para shooting team at Bisley in 1982
By 1977 Pollak was a major and Officer Commanding a company of paratroopers. He often came under pressure to transfer to the Royal Army Medical Corps and a more conventional TA career. Instead, in 1978 he decided to temporarily forsake medicine and try for the regular SAS.
To prepare himself he resigned his commission, enlisted as a private soldier in the regular Parachute Regiment and was assigned to the 3rd Battalion (3 Para). He attended SAS selection in 1980 and passed the initial phase. However, the authorities then realised that his Czech origins, which included compulsory membership of the Communist youth movement, would preclude him from passing the positive vetting demanded of all SAS soldiers, and to his dismay he was returned to 3 Para.
The Commanding Officer of 22 SAS, who appealed the decision, observed that he would have been a “great asset to the SAS, [but] the men in suits decided otherwise, to the benefit of the Paras”. The decision was ironic given Pollak’s hatred of communism.

Pollak then commissioned into the 1st Battalion (1 Para). He captained their very successful shooting team at Bisley and other Skill at Arms meetings, and in 1982 he was one of seven of their number who made the Army 100 (the top 100 rifle shots). He was also a very competent pistol shot.

When on leave Pollak would often moonlight as a locum in hospitals. On one occasion a friend observed that the nurses adored him because when a drunken yob had abused and assaulted them he had stepped in and knocked the culprit out cold. He enjoyed the sobriquet of “the Mad Para Doctor” bestowed by “the lads” in his battalion.
Pollak in 2011 near Arnhem after making his final static-line parachute jump: he was thought to have held the Army record at the time for the most such jumps

Pollak in 2011 near Arnhem after making his final static-line parachute jump: he was thought to have held the Army record at the time for the most such jumps
Pollack then transferred into the RAMC before accepting a four-year posting as the regimental medical officer with the Sultan’s Special Force in Oman, where he kept a collection of venomous snakes, tarantulas and camel spiders. Upon returning from Oman he commanded 16 (Lincoln) Company, 4 Para, while working as an anaesthetist for the NHS.

Between 1990 and 1997 he served with 23 Parachute Field Ambulance in a variety of roles, including forming and commanding its Special Forces Troop. He was the principal designer of a mobile operating theatre for use by Special Forces which fitted into the confines of a Hercules C-130 aircraft.

Never pompous about rank, he threw a memorable party the fourth time he was promoted to major. A fellow officer described him as “something of a Peter Pan figure who never grew up”, while another felt that he “simply enjoyed everything he did [and] really enjoyed helping his fellow man”. When he found that a fellow officer’s cholesterol was somewhat high, he recommended drinking red wine and promptly took the man to a wine bar near Charing Cross, where they proceeded to enjoy several bottles of claret.
Whatever Pollak did he did well. He was renowned for his fitness, and as well as being an experienced and skilled mountaineer and alpine skier he was a fell runner, completing more than 50 fell and mountain marathons.

Pollak qualified as a GP in 1990, and later as a GP trainer. In the late 1990s he developed leukaemia but he continued to work during his treatment, and regained his incredible fitness and returned to full duties.
Promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1997, he served at Shape in Belgium and later as Commander Medical London District. He saw active service in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. He was senior medical officer, 16 Medical Regiment, in Colchester, before his final Army job as the SMO at Wellington Barracks.
Still parachuting in his early sixties, when Pollak finally retired in 2011 he was reputed to hold the record for the highest number of static-line parachute descents. He was immensely proud of having been an “in-date” military parachutist for 41 years.

In 2020 he endured a difficult six weeks with Covid but recovered and returned to work as a local GP in July that year.

Tom Pollak was unmarried but is survived by a daughter.
Tom Pollak, born January 29 1947, died March 15 2021
Well there's a life well lived
 

OneTenner

LE
Book Reviewer
I crossed paths with him a couple of times, great bloke. cared more about 'his people' than most parents would. Always highly offended if his age was mentioned.
RiP.
 
From today's Daily Telegraph, I'm sure some on here may have known him. Mods please move if in the wrong forum

Lt Col Tom Pollak, doctor and paratrooper who served in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq – obituary​


He designed an airborne ambulance, was one of the Army’s best shots, and served in Oman, where he kept a collection of venomous creatures


By Telegraph Obituaries 7 June 2021 • 12:08pm

Tom Pollak

Tom Pollak

Lieutenant Colonel Tom Pollak, who has died aged 74, was unusual in being both a practising medical doctor and a Major and Officer Commanding a company of paratroopers.
Thomas Edward Pollak was born in Varnsdorf, Czechoslovakia, on January 29 1947 to a Czech father and an English mother. When he was 17 his father died, and his mother returned to England with Thomas and his two brothers.
He arrived speaking little English, but was possessed of a fierce determination to do well, and quickly developed both impeccable English and impeccable manners – hallmarks for the remainder of his life.
He studied Medicine at Sheffield University and while there joined the OTC before commissioning into the B Company of the 4th Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, Territorial & Army Volunteer Reserve (4 Para) in Oldham.
Pollak was a natural soldier with exceptional physical fitness, and a crack shot. Although he loved medicine and continued to work in NHS hospitals during his time in the TA, he revelled in the camaraderie and the physical and mental challenges of life as a Para.
He was soon organising and training teams for marching and shooting competitions, such as the Cambrian March, in which the Paras were particularly successful. So fit and skilled were his teams that they frequently outshone the regular army competition during the four-day event.
Pollak, front row, third right, with the 1 Para shooting team at Bisley in 1982

Pollak, front row, third right, with the 1 Para shooting team at Bisley in 1982
By 1977 Pollak was a major and Officer Commanding a company of paratroopers. He often came under pressure to transfer to the Royal Army Medical Corps and a more conventional TA career. Instead, in 1978 he decided to temporarily forsake medicine and try for the regular SAS.
To prepare himself he resigned his commission, enlisted as a private soldier in the regular Parachute Regiment and was assigned to the 3rd Battalion (3 Para). He attended SAS selection in 1980 and passed the initial phase. However, the authorities then realised that his Czech origins, which included compulsory membership of the Communist youth movement, would preclude him from passing the positive vetting demanded of all SAS soldiers, and to his dismay he was returned to 3 Para.
The Commanding Officer of 22 SAS, who appealed the decision, observed that he would have been a “great asset to the SAS, [but] the men in suits decided otherwise, to the benefit of the Paras”. The decision was ironic given Pollak’s hatred of communism.

Pollak then commissioned into the 1st Battalion (1 Para). He captained their very successful shooting team at Bisley and other Skill at Arms meetings, and in 1982 he was one of seven of their number who made the Army 100 (the top 100 rifle shots). He was also a very competent pistol shot.

When on leave Pollak would often moonlight as a locum in hospitals. On one occasion a friend observed that the nurses adored him because when a drunken yob had abused and assaulted them he had stepped in and knocked the culprit out cold. He enjoyed the sobriquet of “the Mad Para Doctor” bestowed by “the lads” in his battalion.
Pollak in 2011 near Arnhem after making his final static-line parachute jump: he was thought to have held the Army record at the time for the most such jumps

Pollak in 2011 near Arnhem after making his final static-line parachute jump: he was thought to have held the Army record at the time for the most such jumps
Pollack then transferred into the RAMC before accepting a four-year posting as the regimental medical officer with the Sultan’s Special Force in Oman, where he kept a collection of venomous snakes, tarantulas and camel spiders. Upon returning from Oman he commanded 16 (Lincoln) Company, 4 Para, while working as an anaesthetist for the NHS.

Between 1990 and 1997 he served with 23 Parachute Field Ambulance in a variety of roles, including forming and commanding its Special Forces Troop. He was the principal designer of a mobile operating theatre for use by Special Forces which fitted into the confines of a Hercules C-130 aircraft.

Never pompous about rank, he threw a memorable party the fourth time he was promoted to major. A fellow officer described him as “something of a Peter Pan figure who never grew up”, while another felt that he “simply enjoyed everything he did [and] really enjoyed helping his fellow man”. When he found that a fellow officer’s cholesterol was somewhat high, he recommended drinking red wine and promptly took the man to a wine bar near Charing Cross, where they proceeded to enjoy several bottles of claret.
Whatever Pollak did he did well. He was renowned for his fitness, and as well as being an experienced and skilled mountaineer and alpine skier he was a fell runner, completing more than 50 fell and mountain marathons.

Pollak qualified as a GP in 1990, and later as a GP trainer. In the late 1990s he developed leukaemia but he continued to work during his treatment, and regained his incredible fitness and returned to full duties.
Promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1997, he served at Shape in Belgium and later as Commander Medical London District. He saw active service in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. He was senior medical officer, 16 Medical Regiment, in Colchester, before his final Army job as the SMO at Wellington Barracks.
Still parachuting in his early sixties, when Pollak finally retired in 2011 he was reputed to hold the record for the highest number of static-line parachute descents. He was immensely proud of having been an “in-date” military parachutist for 41 years.

In 2020 he endured a difficult six weeks with Covid but recovered and returned to work as a local GP in July that year.

Tom Pollak was unmarried but is survived by a daughter.
Tom Pollak, born January 29 1947, died March 15 2021
I'm sure he was the Doctor (around 2010) who inspected the scar on my neck caused by a leatherman/skin interface, and extracted a long ingrowing hair.

I wondered at the time about some of the group photos on the wall of his office.
 
Last edited:

Chef

LE
Sounds like one of those people who excelled in all they attempted but would keep a low profile about it and be good company in all circumstances.
 

huscarl

Old-Salt
Pretty sure he was the unofficial attached "medic" ( seemed to be transiting through Depot Para) that had a look at my Bergen burns on my back when I did All Arms P Coy back in 1978, really nice guy. RIP
 
An awesome man.
 
**** me... where to start? What a character... and I bet he was a fanny magnet. A life well lived indeed.
 
I bet he was a fanny magnet.
I’m not sure that was quite what he wanted.

However, he looked after me once and was an absolute gentleman. Sad news to hear of his passing. Great to read an obituary of a life lived. Hopefully an inspiration.
 
What an awesome story and an incredible life and career.
 
Bloody hell, sounds like a life very well lived.
Condolences to those who knew him.
 

The_Duke

LE
Moderator
Of course, that didn’t stop me letting a Tom believe that Doc was actually a little light in his loafers and may well have taken advantage of said Tom being off his face on painkillers following a very bad landing
 
Of course, that didn’t stop me letting a Tom believe that Doc was actually a little light in his loafers and may well have taken advantage of said Tom being off his face on painkillers following a very bad landing

Sometimes I think he enjoyed enhancing that myth.
 

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