Lives of the fellows

David James Charley

b.3 October 1918 d.7 November 2008
OBE(1977) MRCS LRCP(1942) MB BS London(1946) MD(1951) MRCP(1952) FRCP(1973)

David Charley was a greatly respected consultant chest physician in Leeds and also a prominent figure in the Baptist Church, both locally and nationally. The son of Reginald Morse Charley, an electrical engineer, and Mary Elizabeth née Slawter, he was educated at Taunton School and St Thomas’ Hospital, where he began his medical training in 1937, qualifying in January 1942, initially with the conjoint qualification.

His religious convictions initially led him to register as a conscientious objector in May 1939, but he later reconsidered his position as the atrocities associated with Hitler’s Germany became known. His parents had adopted a Jewish boy, whose father had been a judge and mother a doctor in Berlin, so he had personal knowledge of the situation that had developed in Germany. On qualification, after three months’ experience in orthopaedics and three months in medicine, Charley joined the Royal Navy as a surgeon lieutenant.

He had an eventful war. After a short time at Devonport, he joined a troop ship to take part in the landings in North Africa on 8 November 1942. On the way home his ship was torpedoed and he had to abandon ship. The fact that he survived gave him a sense of purpose throughout the rest of his life. He was then appointed as a medical officer to a newly commissioned destroyer, HMS Rapid, and thereafter served mainly in the Far East.

After V J day, he worked for a while at a naval hospital at Rainhill, where he began to become interested in tuberculosis and decided to specialise in chest medicine. His subsequent training took him to Benenden and the London Chest Hospital (where he was house surgeon to Thomas Holmes Sellors [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VIII, p.446]), the island of Jersey, Hart’s Hospital, a sanatorium in Woodford Green, the East Ham Chest Clinic and the Tottenham Chest Clinic, among others. He was awarded the MD London degree in December 1951. He became a member of the College in January 1952 and was elected FRCP in 1973.

In May 1954 he was appointed as a consultant in Leeds and worked at the regional chest centre at Killingbeck Hospital and at the Leeds Chest Clinic. Following his retirement in 1978 he was invited to become the first medical director of Wheatfields Hospice in Leeds, part of the Sue Ryder Foundation. During his time there the work of the hospice expanded with an increase in the number of beds from nine to 21. He retired finally in 1986.

Following his retirement he regularly attended the regional chest meetings until the last year or two of his life, providing invaluable advice on the management of difficult cases of tuberculosis in which he was an expert. His colleagues will remember him with great affection as somebody who was always there to give advice and support in difficult clinical situations.

David was a lifelong Baptist and served the church in many important roles. He served as a deacon of his church (Blenheim Baptist Church, Leeds) from 1955 to 1997. He also held positions in the Leeds District of Baptist Churches (president 1969) and the Yorkshire Baptist Association (president 1971). He became the Yorkshire representative to the Baptist Union of Great Britain in 1970 and in 1981 was elected vice-president and then president in 1982. During this time he represented the church nationally and internationally with visits to China, Japan, Korea, Russia and Kenya. He was a member of the Baptist World Alliance. In 1979 he took on the important role of chairman of the governors of the Northern Baptist College in Manchester and in 1994 saw the establishment of the Northern Federation for Training in Ministry in Manchester, an interdenominational training establishment involving Methodist, Anglican, Baptist and United Reform churches.

In addition to his church work, he had a concern for the disabled and in 1977 he was awarded the OBE for this work, initially as a member and then as chairman of the Leeds Advisory Council for the Employment of Disabled Persons. He did this work for 21 years, nine of them as chairman. He remained a sought-after source of expertise in disability and served on Medical Appeals Tribunals until well into his retirement.

A cultured man with interests in theatre, opera, ballet and music generally, he remained until his death a keen member of the local philatelic society. He was president of the Leeds Philatelic Society in 1993.

David’s family was very important to him. In 1949 he married Joan Batstone, who he met through the London Baptist Students Union. Joan died in 1977. Four years later, he married his second wife, Brenda Toole, a hospital almoner. Brenda died in 1999. He had four children by his first marriage - Jonathan, Alison, Helen (who is a doctor) and Ruth, who died in 2002.

Stanley Pearson

[Brit.med.J.,2008, 337, 3073]

(Volume XII, page web)

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