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Oakham School Archives

Explore the history of the school through the documents and objects that have been left behind...


Behind the front

The First World War cannot only be described as a series of major battles and offensives. The fighting and artillery firing was unremitting on the front line. In northern France, villages and towns behind the lines were used as military and supply bases and as clearing stations. Close to the front line, the villages were exposed to brief armed confrontations ad soldiers wounded on the front line were sent there to heal or die. In this page, we explore three of these villages.


When the lines were established in October 1914, the French village of Armentières became a logistical centre for the British Army. It was situated 12 miles south of Ypres and was mostly a quiet sector. It was nicknamed “The Nursery” as the British Army sent soldiers from across the Empire to Armentières so they could familiarize themselves with trench warfare. It was made popular by the soldiers’ song “Mademoiselle d’Armentières”.


The French village of Bailleul is located near the border with Belgium. It was behind the British lines and used as a centre for management of supplies. The British expanded the civilian railway to distribute supplies to the front. Bailleul was also important in the aerial warfare. Three airfields were built by the Allies to support the soldier on the front. The village was captured by the German during their Spring Offensive in 1918, but was recaptured by the Allies later in the year during the Hundred Days Offensive.


The French village of Vermelles was occupied early in the war by the German, from mid-October 1914 to December 1914 when it was recaptured by the French Army. It was situated behind the front line. During the Battle of Loos in 1915, the Chateau was used as a dressing station.


Old Oakhamians who Fell on the Western front

Sidney Arthur Meakin

1894 – 17th December 1914

Sidney was born to Lewis and Sarah Meakin of Welford, Ashby-de-la-Zouche, Derbyshire.


Life at Oakham School

Sidney attended Oakham School between 1909 and 1911. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Shooting: Spring 1910.
  • Royal Drawing Society Annual Examination: passed Division III – Summer 1911.

The School Corps in 1911 - Sidney is sat on the second row, second from the right.


After Oakham and the War

After school, Sidney enlisted when the war broke out. He became a Lieutenant with the 4th Battalion attached to 1st Battalion North Staffordshire (Prince of Wales’s Own) Regiment 17 Brigade 6th Division. His battalion landed at Saint Nazaire on 12th September 1914 and was involved in the Battle of the Aisne.

North Staffordshire Regiment badge.

Sidney was on killed in action near Armentieres on 17th December 1914. He was 20.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Easter term 1915, Vol.31, no.1

He is buried in grave A.3 in Chapelle d’Armentières Old Military Cemetery and remembered in Oakham School Chapel.

Sidney Arthur Meakin's grave at Armentieres.



Frank Donald Lenton

1893 – 26th March 1915


Frank was born to John Holdsworth and Kate Lenton of Bank House, Horncastle, Lincolnshire.


Life at Oakham School

Frank attended Oakham School from 1906. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Debating Society: Spring 1908.
  • Trustee’s Form 5 prize: Summer 1909.


After Oakham and the War

After school, Frank worked as an Articled Clerk in Lincoln. He joined the Honourable Artillery Company, 3rd Company, 7 Brigade, 3rd Division as a Private on 8th September 1914. His battalion landed in France in January 1915 and served in France and in Flanders. Frank was wounded at Bailleul on 24th March 1915.

Honourable Artillery Company badge.

Frank died of wounds on 26th March 1915. He was 22.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Summer term 1915, Vol.31, no.2

Frank is buried in grave J.48 at Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension. He is remembered in Oakham School chapel.



John Gibson

18th May 1895 – 6th February 1916


John was born at Sedgefield, Durham to George E. and Esther A. Gibson of Highfield House, Oakham.


Life at Oakham

John attended Oakham School between 1905 and 1912. He was in the Day Boys. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Christmas Form 1 prize: Winter 1905.
  • Royal Drawing Society Annual Examination: passed Division I with Honours – Summer 1911.
  • Royal Drawing Society Annual Examination: passed Division II with Honours – Summer 1912.
  • Rugby 2nd lot: Winter 1908; Winter 1909.
  • Cricket under 14: Summer 1909.


After Oakham and the War

After school, John went to the Royal Veterinary College, London. He was a member of the Leicestershire Yeomanry and was mobilised as a Corporal in the 1st Battalion, Leicestershire Yeomanry, 7 Cavalry Brigade, 3rd Cavalry Division when the war broke out.

Leicestershire Yeomanry badge.

He went to France in October 1914. He fought at the Battle of Frezenberg, near Ypres in May 1915. He was injured by a rifle grenade in the head near Vermelles on 6th February 1916.

John died of his wounds on the way to the advanced dressing station on 6th February 1915. He was 20.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Easter term 1916, Vol.32, no.1

John is buried in grave II.A.3 at Vermelles British Cemetery. He is remembered on the memorial to A Squadron Leicestershire Yeomanry in Oakham Castle and in Oakham School chapel.


Behind the front Images

Probably men of the Royal Horse Artillery in action in Armentieres, end of March 1916. © IWM Q 461

Heavily damaged railway station at Armentieres, May 1918. © IWM Q 87767

Ruins in Armentieres, 1920. © IWM Q 37272

Ruins of Rue du College in Bailleul, 2nd September 1918. © IWM Q 78706

Ruined town of Bailleul, 2nd September 1918. © IWM Q 78703

Ruined street in Bailleul, 26th March 1919. © IWM Q 389

Wounded British troops returning through Vermelles after the attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt, 13th October 1915. © IWM Q 29006

The ruined chateau at Vermelles used as a RAMC Advanced Dressing Station. © IWM Q 7253

Ruins of the church at Vermelles, 29th August 1917. © IWM Q 58147