William M. Manchester was born at Waimate in 1913. As a child he suffered a scalp laceration, which required stitching, and he was so impressed with the surgeon who treated him that he decided to become a doctor.

He studied medicine at the University of Otago, where he graduated MB ChB in 1938. In 1940 he enlisted in the New Zealand Medical Corps and was posted overseas with the 22nd NZ Infantry Battalion. In November 1940 he was seconded to train in plastic surgery in the United Kingdom, under Gillies, McIndoe and Mowlem, after which he was sent to 1 General Hospital at Helwan (Egypt) to set up the plastic and reconstructive surgery unit. After two years in the Middle East he was recalled to New Zealand as assistant surgeon in the Military Plastic Surgical Unit at Burwood Hospital, near Christchurch, becoming OC of the unit (1944-1947).

At the end of the war he was given the task of establishing New Zealand's first civilian plastic surgery unit at Burwood. Late in 1947 he returned to the United Kingdom for further post-graduate study, gaining his Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) in 1949. He returned to New Zealand to take up a position at Middlemore Hospital, Auckland. He remained with the hospital for the rest of his working life, until his retirement in 1979.

He gained his Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS) in 1957. He served as an examiner and board member in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. He was elected to the New Zealand Committee of the College in 1964 and became its Chairman in 1970. He played an instrumental role in the formation of the New Zealand Association of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, and was its inaugural Chairman in 1976. He was an active member of the International Confederation of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, as Secretary General (1967 to 1971) and as Vice-President of the 5th International Congress in Melbourne in 1971.

He was created CBE in 1972 for his services to plastic surgery, and elevated to KBE in 1987.


  • The lecture shall be known as The William Manchester Lecture.
  • The lecture shall be delivered at the Annual Scientific Congress of the College whenever it is held in New Zealand, and may also be delivered at other times as determined by the New Zealand Committee.
  • The lecturer must be an Australasian plastic surgeon who has made a significant contribution to the specialty of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in recent times.

William Manchester Lecturers

1999 - J. Williams - The Influence of one Man on Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in New Zealand
1990 - B.McC. O'Brien - The Influence of Microsurgery Research on Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery