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Biographical entry Bohn, Gordon Leonard (1913 - 2007)

MRCS 1935; FRCS 1938; MB BS London 1935; LRCP 1935.

17 February 1913
London, UK
10 December 2007
Reading, Berkshire, UK
General surgeon


Gordon Bohn was a consultant general surgeon at the Royal Berkshire and Battle hospitals, Reading. He was born in Forest Gate, London, on 17 February 1913, the son of Leonard Gayton Bohn, a ship-owner, and Sophia Bohn (née Cattermole). From the County High School, Ilford, he went to the medical school of St Bartholomew’s Hospital.

After two and a half years in junior posts at Bart’s he had already passed the final fellowship examination. Sir James Paterson Ross told him “now is the time to learn some real surgery”. Leonard Joyce, the brilliant honorary surgeon at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, was a Bart’s man who had close links with the surgical professorial unit, so in 1937 Bohn went to the Royal Berkshire in Reading. He dropped a rank to become house surgeon to Joyce. In 1938 he became a registrar and married Freda Stace.

When Joyce died in 1939, Aitken Walker became honorary surgeon and Bohn an honoary assistant surgeon. He joined Aitken Walker in private surgical practice and as co-owner of Dunedin Nursing Home, which would later become a large private hospital in a national chain. At the Royal Berkshire Hospital he was promoted to honorary surgeon in 1942, but was soon called to military service. He went with the RAMC to West Africa and Burma, reaching the rank of major.

With the coming of the NHS, he was appointed consultant surgeon, becoming active on many local and regional committees. From 1969 he served for a year as head of the British paediatric team in South Vietnam.

On his return he plunged into the planning for a new acute services unit being built at Battle Hospital. When it opened as the Abbey Block in 1972, Bohn, who had served at the Royal Berkshire on every surgically related committee from records to sterilising services, totally changed his allegiance: he brought his own surgical unit to the Abbey Block and worked tirelessly to improve the clinical services at Battle until his retirement on his 65th birthday in 1978. Even then, he stayed on to do two years of research.

Bohn was a skilled general surgeon, with particular interests in peptic ulcer surgery and paediatrics, equally at home in dealing with a massive haematemesis or pyloric stenosis in a neonate. His mastery of clinical diagnosis was a source of wonder to a succession of surgical registrars. If a junior called with a problem, he would come in at once. In theatre he was calm, quiet and unflappable, much-loved by the nursing staff.

Outside work, he was a skilled church organist and choirmaster. He continued as organist in the Royal Berkshire Hospital chapel for many years after retirement. He was completely unostentatious, although his great joy after music was an immaculate vintage Rolls Royce. A short time before both their deaths, Gordon Bohn married Maisie Cook, the ex-superintendent of theatres at the Royal Berks and Battle, who had been his companion for many years. He died on 10 December 2007 in Reading, leaving three daughters (Frances, Elizabeth and Griselda), six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. The second daughter, Elizabeth Calder, became an associate specialist in the Derriford Hospital dialysis and transplant unit. Her son, Alistair Calder, is a consultant radiologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Marshall Barr

The Royal College of Surgeons of England