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Biographical entry Henley, Francis Austin (1914 - 2009)

MB BS London 1939; MRCS LRCP 1939; FRCS 1949.

23 May 1914
31 January 2009
Gastrointestinal surgeon


Francis Henley was a consultant gastrointestinal surgeon at the Central Middlesex Hospital, London. He was born in Liverpool on 23 May 1914, the son of Francis Henley, a director of a sports business, and Julia Virginia Henley née Kowrach, a housewife. He was educated at several Catholic schools, and then studied medicine at Middlesex Hospital Medical School. He qualified in 1939, just before the beginning of the Second World War.

He was a house surgeon at Middlesex Hospital under Gordon Gordon-Taylor and Rupert Vaughan Hudson, and then joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. He initially served in Norway, and was subsequently involved in establishing the Royal Navy's blood transfusion service. He was then assigned to HMS Argonaut in the Mediterranean, landing troops in North Africa. The ship was torpedoed twice, in the Mediterranean and in the Bay of Biscay, in a convoy heading back to the UK in February 1943. On the second occasion, the crew, including casualties, had to be transferred in an open boat at night. Henley eventually returned to Gibraltar and travelled to Algiers and then Tunisia, where he set up a naval hospital at Ferryville by requisitioning a school. He returned to the UK in June 1944 and spent two years at HMS Vernon, a 'shore' establishment, based at Eastbourne College. He was demobilised in 1946 with the rank of surgeon lieutenant commander.

From 1947 to 1948 he was a house surgeon and then neurological house surgeon to Douglas Northfield at the London Hospital. He then returned to Middlesex Hospital, where he was registrar and senior registrar. He gained his FRCS in 1949 and from 1952 to 1953 he was a Hunterian professor of surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, and also held a Fulbright scholarship to the USA, working in Chicago.

He was appointed as a consultant and then a senior consultant surgeon at Central Middlesex Hospital. He wrote papers on gastrointestinal topics, including blood supply of the bile duct, jejunal replacement of the stomach in gastrectomy, and carcinoma of the liver treated with hemi-hepatectomy. He retired in 1979.

He was also an honorary professor of surgery at Firouzabadi Hospital, Teheran, Iran, and a visiting surgeon to the Libyan government and a visiting professor in Benghazi.

In1960 he married Elizabeth McDonald Sellars, a RADA-trained stage and film actress. They had a son, Raymond Alan Henley. Francis Austin Henley died on 31 January 2009, aged 94.

Sarah Gillam

The Royal College of Surgeons of England