Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the NHS has rarely been out of the news recently. But how many members of our school community are aware that an OE (Old Emanuel) played a pivotal role in the foundation and early development of the NHS?

When Sir John Hawton (OE1914-23) died in in 1982, The Times newspaper obituary named him “one of the architects of the National Health Service” as at the time he was the most senior civil servant responsible for the White Paper of 1944. It is widely believed that he was instrumental in the life-changing decision to nationalise all hospitals which soon became government policy. In 1951 Sir John was appointed Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health, a position he held until 1960. He later worked with the British Waterways Board, holding the role of chairman from 1963-68, but it is his crucial role in the foundation of the NHS for which he is best remembered. Historical articles on the subject note: “Hawton forged the bullets [Aneyrin] Bevan the Health Minister fired”. 

Sir John was a high-flier during his formative years at Emanuel, having attended the prep school ‘Raglan House’ and becoming its eventual captain. He was also a Lyons house prefect, a prefect of the school, both an editor and sub-editor of The Portcullis magazine and a member of the OTC. Sir John was awarded a scholarship to attend St John’s College Cambridge where he received a first class degree. Following graduation, he qualified as a barrister and first worked for the Ministry of Health in 1927 dealing with local government issues such as housing, water supply, war time emergency services and public health, before being quickly promoted up the ranks.

Mr Jones (Senior Librarian and Archivist)