Peter John James Wren

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 14 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1057
  1. Damian Richard Wren

Peter John James Wren did not have a distinguished academic career at St Francis Xavier College, Liverpool, spending much of his time in the headmaster’s study. Aged 16 years he followed his brother Richard into the Jesuit novitiate. At the outbreak of war, after it became clear to both parties that his vocation lay elsewhere, he joined the Royal Navy as a rating on Russian convoys. He trained as an officer at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich and served in coastal forces at home and in the Mediterranean, commanding motor torpedo boats. He was wounded in joint operations with US forces and awarded the Purple Heart. Peter was lucky to be one of serving personnel to receive penicillin, and recalled how their urine was collected and sent back to the laboratory to reclaim the precious antibiotic. He was amused by his military pension for selective deafness caused by the marine engines that powered the torpedo boats. After the war he continued in the Royal Naval Reserve, rising to the rank of surgeon lieutenant commander, and was awarded the voluntary reserve decoration in 1963.

After the war he retook his Highers (A levels) and with the help of his MP, Bessie Braddock, he obtained a grant to follow his sister Esme to study medicine at Liverpool University. As a catholic his chosen career in obstetrics was closed in Liverpool. Therefore, in 1955 he joined his cousin J Maybury as a GP in Chorley, where he continued to practise obstetrics and delivered his subsequent undertaker. Inspired by his son Chris (who had Down’s syndrome) he found time to study for his MD into Down’s syndrome, for which he received the Charles Oliver Hawthorne award from the BMA. He was a founding member and provost for the northwest of the Royal College of General Practitioners. The founding members awarded themselves fellowships without the need for the exams required nowadays.

In 1992 Peter was awarded an OBE for his work in Lancashire as a justice of the peace and chairman of the Chorley bench, commissioner of St John Ambulance, deputy lieutenant, and high sheriff (1984-5). After retirement he argued for amateur boxing against the views of the BMA, Jeremy Paxman, and others in the media, as well his neurologist son; he became chairman of the Medical Commission of the Amateur Boxing Association (ABA) and a member of the medical commission of the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) in addition to being a medical officer at two Olympic Games.

His faith remained a central part to his life, recognised by the papal Knighthood of St Gregory the Great. In addition, he was a knight of obedience of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta.

He leaves his wife Margie, a former paediatrician; three children (two doctors), and five grandchildren (two medical students).


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1057


  • Former general practitioner, Chorley (b 1920; q Liverpool 1953; OBE, VRD, KSG, JP, DL, MD, FRCGP), died from chronic heart failure on 18 December 2011.