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Lionel Malcolm Lake (1934 – 2020)

An engineer who valued diverse skills and recognised the influence of geology upon all types of engineering projects

Lionel LakeLionel was born in Fulham and evacuated to South Wales during World War II. His early education was disrupted, but he strove to address this as his career progressed. He was commissioned into the Royal Artillery for National Service in Northern Ireland (1953 – 55) and completed a BSc in Geology through evening classes at Birkbeck College (1963).

Early contacts

Lionel joined Legrand, Sutcliffe & Gell in 1963, working on site investigations and foundations before taking a year out to complete the MSc course in soil mechanics and foundations at Imperial College London in 1967. At Imperial he met Noel Simons and established a strong rapport. He later completed his PhD under Noel’s guidance at Surrey University in 1975. Lionel also formed long-lasting contacts with other academics and senior practitioners who he often sought advice from in later years.

Lionel returned to his former employer for a further four years before joining Soil Mechanics Ltd and starting the transition from contracting to consultancy.

Senior roles and major projects

In 1973, Lionel joined Mott, Hay & Anderson in their Tunnels Department, but with the intention of strengthening geotechnical capability within the firm. In 1977, he was appointed Head of the newly formed Geotechnical Department and was responsible for establishing and growing his team of civil, mining, geotechnical engineers and engineering geologists. Lionel valued a diversity of skills and recognised the influence of geology upon all types of civil engineering projects. He was involved in investigations and various trials for the Channel Tunnel in 1973 – 76, 1978 – 79, as well as the successful scheme in 1986 – 94, and these formed some of his fondest memories.

Lionel contributed to various major projects all over the world and, in 1979, became involved in the field of radioactive waste management, carrying out research and development for various Government bodies. He was appointed a Director of Mott MacDonald Civil following the 1989 merger.

Professional excellence

Lionel recognised the importance of education and helped his team to achieve their professional potential. He set high standards and was Mott MacDonald’s group champion for professional excellence, convincing the Main Board to adopt this as one of the three tenets of their company ethos.

Lionel had an exceptional ability to write clear and concise reports, and helped many a graduate do the same. He believed in his staff, developing a robust framework for anticipated engineering behaviour, enabling them to spot something out of the ordinary.

Outside of a heavy workload, he was able to give time to various professional bodies, serving as a committee member at the British Geotechnical Society, Association of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Specialists, Ground Engineering Board, Construction Industry Research and Information Association, Engineering Council, EU advisory bodies, and Geotechnique, as well as being an external examiner at Imperial College London and Visiting Professor of Geotechnics at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and at Brighton. Lionel retired from Mott MacDonald in 1994.

Lionel has two daughters by his first marriage and two sons by his second marriage to Pam. He was a keen sailor, loved classical music, and walking in the mountains with his family and their Bullmastiff dog. He will be sorely missed.

By William Rankin