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Biographical entry Martin, Kenneth Whittle (1917 - 2009)

MRCS 1940; FRCS 1946; MB BS London 1940; MS London 1953; LRCP 1940.

18 July 1917
22 July 2009
General surgeon


Kenneth Whittle Martin, known as 'Poppy' to his family, was a general surgeon in Worthing with an interest in urology. He came from a long line of doctors dating back to at least 1774. He was born on 18 July 1917 in Singapore, the son of William Whittle Martin, an army ENT surgeon, and his wife Katie, née Partington, the daughter of a mill owner. When aged three, his family moved from the Far East to Hove in Sussex, a county in which he lived for almost all of the rest of his life. He attended Mowden School in Hove and then Charterhouse, where he was a senior scholar and captain of cricket. Following the family tradition, he decided to read medicine and went to St Thomas' Hospital Medical School, armed with a shilling a day pocket money given to him by his mother.

Qualifying in 1940, he was house surgeon to W H C 'Hugo' Romanis and Norman 'Pasty' Barrett, before enlisting in the Royal Navy and serving as a surgeon lieutenant from 1941 to 1946. During his war service he served in hospitals at home and in the Indian Ocean on HMS Fortune and in the Far East on HMS Duke of York. Three years before his death he wrote an account of his wartime experiences in a privately published book entitled Poppy's war.

After demobilisation, he returned to St Thomas' as a surgical registrar, during which time he passed the FRCS examination. He was then appointed as a resident assistant surgeon, a particularly busy post but one which gave him extensive operative experience. In 1954 he was appointed as a consultant surgeon at Worthing Hospital, allowing him to return to his Sussex roots, and he remained on the staff of that hospital for 28 years, retiring at the age of 65 in 1982. Although he practised a wide range of general surgery, he developed a particular interest in urology and had an enviable local reputation as the waterworks specialist.

In retirement he enjoyed fishing and bridge and developed considerable expertise in investment management. He founded the Bosham Investment Club and became adept at tracking the movement of stocks and shares by complicated graphs on his computer. He also enjoyed overseas travel, both with his family and as a longstanding member of the Grey Turner Travelling Surgical Club.

Ken married Daphne Esplin Stewart in 1941 and they had two sons and two daughters. He and Daphne were inseparable throughout their 68 years of marriage. Both were notably somewhat non-conformist and idiosyncratic. On one occasion Ken was asked to look after a leg which a colleague had amputated when the hospital incinerator was closed. He put the leg in the boot of his car and drove to a secluded area of the beach where he threw the limb into the sea, resulting in a police investigation after it was later washed up on the beach.

He was wonderful company, being a fund of stories and good humour. Apart from increasing deafness, he retained good health throughout his long life until he died of old age on 22 July 2009, four days after his 92nd birthday.

Sir Barry Jackson

The Royal College of Surgeons of England