Doctor who flies to war zones to treat the sick receives MBE honour

Doctor Colin Tourle MBE in his garden at his home in Hellingly (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-170629-090114008
Doctor Colin Tourle MBE in his garden at his home in Hellingly (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-170629-090114008

A Hailsham doctor who flies to war zones to help people has been honoured with an MBE.

Dr Colin Tourle, aged 75, received the honour for ‘medical services worldwide – for voluntary medical work overseas’.

Having practised as a GP in the town for more than 40 years, Dr Tourle has made 55 voluntary trips abroad to help people in areas of conflict. He has travelled to Brazil, Zambia and Ethiopia to lend his services, but most recently worked on the Syrian border in Lebanon to provide aid for those fleeing Isis.

He said, “The camps are right up against the Syrian border. They never have doctors normally.

“I have been working with people who had escaped Isis, mostly women and children. I think you help a lot of people and I think just by physically being there it’s important to them. There are very few people from the West because it’s so dangerous.

“When you chat to people, that contact with people is good for them, they talk about their lives and one feels immensely sad.

“We were looking after the widows’ camp where their husbands had been killed. I have always enjoyed the work and I have met many lovely and brave people.”

Having officially retired in 2000 but still working part time at his local practise, Mr Tourle said becoming a Member of the British Empire was a ‘great honour’.

He said, “About 25 years ago I was asked to go and help examine children at an orphanage in Romania.

“That was the beginning of a medical charity which has gone on ever since.”

Dr Tourle volunteers for the charity Iasis, which he co-founded when leading an HIV screening team in Romania in the 1990s. Now he still works on its projects while fundraising for it locally.

He said, “I have been immensely helped by the people of Hailsham and around, a lot of the funds we have needed to get abroad have come from the community.

“The churches have been fantastic, especially Hellingly Church, but also schools, women’s institutes ... all manner of groups have helped.

“I enjoy going around to chat to people about it, they have been very kind.”

For more information about Iasis, visit www.iasis.org.uk