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Biographical entry James, Kenneth Leslie (1906 - 1991)

MRCS 1929; FRCS 1933; MB BS London 1932; MS 1937; LRCP 1929.

15 July 1906
General surgeon


Kenneth Leslie James was born on 15 July 1906 in Burton-on-Trent, the son of Joseph Henry James, MA, LIB, BD, who had given up the law to become a Methodist Minister, and his wife Minnie, née Longley.

His early education was at the Burnley Grammar School but due to the peripatetic nature of his father's calling his formal education was continued at Mill Hill School in London. Leaving school, he went into commerce but, realising that his true vocation was the medical profession, he applied to University College Hospital, London, and was accepted.

He qualified in 1932 at 26 years of age and during his pre-clinical years captained the UCH tennis team with considerable success. After qualification he was appointed house surgeon at University College Hospital, during which appointment he obtained the Fellowship. Numerous surgical posts followed, one of which was the position of resident surgical officer at St Mark's Hospital. In 1937 he gained a mastership in surgery at London University by examination, and in 1941 he was appointed assistant surgeon to Croydon General Hospital and honorary surgical registrar to the Gordon Hospital which, like St Mark's, specialised in the treatment of diseases of the colon and rectum. In 1942 he enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps as a surgical specialist and was almost immediately posted to India, joining a field hospital which was to have taken part in the Burma Campaign, a task aborted by the sudden collapse of the Japanese forces. During this period he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

He returned from abroad in 1946 and was appointed the following year as consultant general surgeon to the Purley District Hospital and assistant surgeon to Croydon Hospital Group and the Gordon Hospital. Unfortunately, at the age of 57 he was advised to retire due to the development of angina. He followed this advice but made several voyages to New Zealand as a ship's doctor, looking after the cadets on board.

As a young man he enjoyed skiing, squash and tennis. He was a reluctant gardener but an enthusiastic golfer. In 1941 he married Margaret (Peggy) and they had three children: Erica Lesley (who became a barrister in Canada), Colin Douglas (a solicitor) and Diane Claire ( a company director). This marriage ended in divorce in 1973 after 32 years and, in 1975, he married Margaret Atkins. Despite the relatively early onset of cardiac ischaemia he outlived most of his contemporaries, dying as he did at the age of 85 years, and leaving his second wife and three children.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England