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Biographical entry Allen, Leonard Norman (1929 - 2014)

MB BS London 1954; MRCS LRCP 1954; FRCS 1959.

30 April 1929
Brede, Sussex
6 February 2014
Urological surgeon


Leonard Norman Allen ('Len') was a urological surgeon at Edgware General Hospital, Middlesex. He was born in the village of Brede, Sussex, on 30 April 1929, the youngest son of Norman Williams Allen and Mildred Kathleen Allen née Hoad. His father, a much-respected member of the local community, was a grocer and the village sub-postmaster for half a century.

Len's mother, very protective of her last born, postponed her son's entry to the local primary school until his sixth year due to the severe visual impairment from which he had suffered since birth. His condition, severe myopia, was not finally diagnosed until he was nine years old. It is said that, on receiving his first pair of spectacles, he 'whooped with joy' on being able to see the world around him properly for the first time. Despite his delayed start, he won an entrance scholarship to Rye Grammar School, but his progress was again encumbered; with the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, he was, like many other children, evacuated, in his case to a kind, welcoming family on a farm near the comparative safety of Bedford.

It was four years before he was able to return to Rye Grammar School, from which he again achieved scholastic success, and was awarded a state scholarship in his final term. This enabled him to enrol - after conscription for two years of National Service in the RAF - at University College Hospital Medical School. He qualified MB BS and MRCS LRCP in 1954.

Len Allen's pre-registration posts were at Leicester General and Leicester Royal hospitals, where he first met a young newly-qualified Scottish doctor, Elizabeth Taylor. They married in 1957.

Len chose to embark on a surgical career. He obtained his FRCS in 1959 and was shortly afterwards appointed as a junior registrar at his alma mater, University College Hospital, and then as a senior surgical registrar to Robin Sturtevant Pilcher and Doreen Nightingale, and, after that, upon the death of the former, to Charles Clarke.

He was appointed as a consultant surgeon to Edgware General Hospital, where he spent the rest of his professional life. He brought with him a particular vision, influenced by the values of Beveridge and the optimism of the immediate post-war years, which saw the development of the welfare state and the NHS. He believed in the importance of working together, in a cross-fertilisation of all talents, that one person's amassing of awards, prizes or accumulation of research papers, pursued as a measure of merit, could be bettered by joint endeavour and shared recognition. Len, as a consequence, was elected chairman of the consultant surgical group by his peers.

In his professional life, Len was an able, trustworthy and judicious surgeon to his patients; for his colleagues, he was a faithful friend, dependable in counsel and constant in support. In his personal life, Len was a stalwart, strong, good-humoured and ever-loving husband, a thoughtful and caring father, and the fondest of grandfathers. One of his children became a doctor, two became veterinary surgeons and another is a qualified nutritionist, while three of his eight grandchildren are studying medicine: there can be no greater compliment paid to a doctor from his family.

In his final illness, which was sudden and unanticipated, he showed staunch courage, boundless fortitude and tenacious good cheer, borne up throughout by his steady faith, the love of his wife and family, and the constancy of his friends and colleagues.

Leonard Norman Allen died on 6 February 2014, aged 84. He was survived by his wife, Elizabeth Allen, two sons, Peter and Michael, two daughters, Jennifer and Penelope, and eight grandchildren.

Robert J Ryall

The Royal College of Surgeons of England