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100483 Wing Commander Henry Rapoport Rollin M.B., B.Ch., D.P.M.

An interesting psychiatrist who served in the Royal Air Force in WWII.

He was born in Glasgow in 1911. He was brought up in Leeds and loved the theatre and was a staunch supporter of socialism.

He enrolled in Leeds University in 1928 to study medicine.

He was the reigning Leeds and Northern Universities lightweight boxing champion which made him primed for other forms of scraps that he would 

have throughout his medical career with the authorities and the NHS.

He obtained his M.B., Ch.B. in 1935 and left Oldham Royal Infirmary taking locum tenens positions until he became a ship's surgeon in 1937.

On being paid off he entered the world of psychiatry and started work at London County Council Mental Hospitals in 1938.

On the outbreak of war he had to deal with many servicemen who were suffering from psychiatric disorders secondary to the events they had 

witnessed and taken part in.

        On 24th June 1941 he was commissioned as a Flying Officer in the R.A.F. He was trained in the Cotswolds and then served for some 3 years

 in the R.A.F. He was promoted through the ranks to Squadron Leader on 24th July 1942 and eventually Wing Commander.

        He was based at the R.A.F'.s medical Headquarters in Middlesex. He along with other distinguished psychiatrists to investigate the effects of

 the war on aircrew and their subsequent neuroses.

He wrote several papers about his experiences with the initial intake and assessment of W.A.A.F. aircrew

April 17th 1943 he published a paper in the British Medical Journal:

"Pediculosis capitis and Intelligence in W.A.A.F. recruits". (Ref)

        He later published a paper in the British Journal of Medical Psychology (Ref:[0007-1129] Rollin, H R yr:1944 vol:20 pg:63).

"Trade training failures in the W.A.A.F. Factors in predisposition and precipitation".

        In the first paper he claimed to have found an association between the intelligence of the W.A.A.F.'s who enlisted and the presence or 

absence of pediculosis capitis or head lice infestation.

        Certainly head lice infestation was one of the biggest problems encountered with personnel during the war and history shows that lice 

infestation was a common occurrence throughout the various military conflicts man has fought.

For those of you who served in the W.A.A.F. in WWII it was a routine event to undergo the Freedom from Infection or F.F.I. routine.

        For head lice this was done by using specially trained medical orderlies to examine W.A.A.F.'s on arrival. Those found to have the infestation

 were rounded up and detained in a special "head-hut" for treatment. Rollins thus had two separate groups of W.A.A.F.'s and carried out a series

 of intelligence tests using what was considered at the time to be an excellent indicator of intelligence known as the Stephenson G.V.K. test.

 This tested "G", general analytical intelligence, "V", verbal intelligence, and "K", practical -mindedness.

        It consisted of three group pencil and paper tests applied by specially trained W.A.A.F. officers  and airwomen under standard conditions. 

This gave a series of results as a percentile, which is the value of a variable below which a certain percent of observations fall. For example, 

the 20th percentile is the value (or score) below which 20 percent of the observations may be found. The term percentile and the related term

 percentile rank are often used in the reporting of scores from norm-referenced tests. For example, if a score is in the 86th percentile, 

it is higher than 85% of the other scores.

        What he found on evaluating 312 W.A.A.F.'s was that the number of W.A.A.F.'s with the lowest percentile scores was greater in the G.V.K. 

tests than for those who had to be treated for head lice.

For those with head lice there were 212 (69%) "G", 236 (76%) "V" and 299 (96%) "K".

        Whereas those W.A.A.F.'s without head lice gave results of 86 (28%) "G", 112 (36%) "V" and 219 (71%) "K".

He found the lowest scores in the head lice infested group and claimed this was the group of W.A.A.F.'s with less intelligence than the non-infested W.A.A.F.'s.

        Modern research shows that head lice can infect people of all ages and sexes and is not limited to any particular socio-economic strata in society, neither 

is it linked to the intelligence of a patient.

        So one must ask the reason for this finding of Rollins? It has been suggested that the infested group who were detained and treated for the head lice

 infestation were so traumatised by the confinement and treatment that they were not that interested in doing well at the G.V.K. test and simply rushed 

through it to get away from what would always be a horrid memory.

        Certainly he implied that if you were infested with lice this was because you were not that bright and the bright people were more likely to be responsible 

people who would wash their hair more regularly and have higher hygiene standards. Rollin was a very clever and astute psychiatrist but he seems to have drawn

 the wrong conclusion in this experiment.

        The head lice of 1943 were not a radically different breed from the head lice of 2015 and his research findings have not been repeated by anyone to show 

any link between intelligence and head lice infestation. We can only assume that his second group were somehow affected by their confinement and treatment in 

such a way as to skew the results.

Had he carried out G.V.K testing on both groups at the same time without any intervening treatment for head lice he might have had a different result.

        In a second paper he investigated the failures of W.A.A.F.'s in Trade Training. He stated that failed trainees present an urgent problem.       They wasted

money and time and showed discipline and morale problems. He claimed :"There is no more factor more calculated to produce a disgruntled airwoman than

to have failed a trade training course". It was claimed that W.A.A.F. officers in charge of such failures maintained that this group was more difficult to handle

 than other airwomen, with low morale and the committing of disciplinary offences was more common.

        It seems that attempts were made to keep such airwomen away from the rest as it was believed that they would infect others with their dissatisfaction.

        He examined 55 airwomen in detail and found they were of two types:

1) Low intelligence and unsuitable for even the lowest grade of Trade Training.

2) Airwomen who were nervous or odd.

He classified them into three broad groups:

a) Mental dullness b) neurosis c) psychopathic personality.

If a failed airwomen had a combination of two groups as above then they were considered to be predominant in failure.

        In the neurotic and psychopathic group the predisposition to failure when compared with a normal group was of the region of 4:1.

        Of the Balloon Operators who had failed he found that eight were mentally dull, one had a neurosis and two had a psychopathic personality.

He was instrumental in getting the Central Trade Test Board to use the G.V.K testing system to screen airwomen and this had reduced the incidence of

 failures by removing the low intelligence ones away from the recruiting pool.

He did state that there was still an issue with detecting intelligent neurotics and psychopaths and that they would get through to Trade Test Training but

 then fail because of the psychiatric qualities.

In 1953 he was awarded a Fullbright Fellowship and in 1963 he was given a research fellowship

at Nuffield College , Oxford .

He died in March 2014 aged 102.

He was described in his obituary in The Times, "as an enlightened psychiatrist and champion of Britain ’s asylums."

He enlightened the professionals who dealt with mental illness getting patients therapy and not having them locked up 

in custodial units.

He was deputy superintendent from 1948 at Horton Hospital , Surrey .

He revolutionised mental health care requiring fresh approaches to the treatment and management of such patients.

A lover of music he brought music into the wards and encouraged patient participation to listen to and even dance to the music.

Patients were discharged and seen in out-patient clinics and many patients were treated to social outings and trips, which was

almost unheard of at the time.

He opposed “care in the community”. Claiming that it was of no value as the community “did not care”. 

Rollin left the NHS for a consultant forensic psychiatrist position with the Home Office in 1976 and was later a forensic 

psychiatrist at Brixton Prison.


Did you ever see him when you were a W.A.A.F.???