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Oakham School Archives

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


The Normandy landings

The Normandy landings, codenamed Operation Overlord, were the largest amphibious military operation in history. The start of the operation was ordered by Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Allies had chosen Normandy as their landings site as it was less heavily defended than Pas-de-Calais.

Hitler was expecting an assault on Northern France in the spring of 1944. He had hoped to counterattack the Allies’ assault to give time to his forces to return to the eastern front and defeat the Soviet Union there. He had misjudged the scale of the attack and refused to release nearby divisions to join the counterattack, causing delays. He also hesitated in calling for armoured divisions to help the infantry. A lack of support and confusion in the German army, as well as an effective Allied air and naval support ensured the success of the Allies.

The landings were preceded by a large airborne assault. 13,000 men took off from southern England to northern France on board 925 airplanes. They were paratroopers of the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, of the British 6th Airborne Division and of the 1st Canadian Parachute Division. The parachutes troops jumped five hours before the coastal landings, at night and they landed behind the enemy lines.

Six divisions were to land on 6th June 1944 - three American divisions, two British and one Canadian. Two more British and one American divisions were to follow as support after the first landings. Sword Beach was the objective of the British 3rd Infantry Division. Juno Beach was the objective of the 3rd Canadian Division. The Canadians broke through and advanced nearly to their objective – the airfield at Carpiquet, west of Caen. Gold Beach was the landing site of the 50th Northumbrian Division, 2nd British Army. Their objective was to seize Arrolnanches. They faced fierce initial opposition but managed to break through and reach their objective. The British forces were equipped with armour and “Funnies”, specialist vehicles armed with 290mm mortars, of the 79th Armoured Division.

At 6:30am on 6th June 1944, American troops came ashore at Utah and Omaha beaches. The British and Canadian divisions captured Gold, Juno and Sword beaches and American divisions captured Utah beach, encountering light opposition. However, at Omaha beach, the US 1st Division had to overcome harsher conditions - mist, mines, burning vehicles and a heavy fire from the German coastal batteries and elite infantry division. The American lost more than 20,000 casualties at Omaha.

By the end of the day, the landings were considered a success. 15,000 Allied-troops had stormed five Normandy’s beaches and were consequently able to push inland. By the end of June, the invading forces consisted of 850,000 men and 150,000. By the end of August 1944, they had freed the northern part of France and were reorganizing before entering Germany and to meet the Soviet troops advancing from the east.

Operation Epsom (26th - 30th June 1944)

Operation Epsom was a British offensive, following the Normandy landings. The objective was the capture of the French city of Caen. However, because of delays and poor weather, the Allies objectives was only reached in mid-July 1944.

A map of the five landng sites in Normandy.

Old Oakhamians who Fell During the Battle of Normandy

David Herbert Vivian Board

24th June 1905 – 6th June 1944


David was the son of Thomas Harding and Mary Gwladys Board of Putney, London.


Life at Oakham School

David attended Oakham School between 1921 and 1924. He was in School House. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Boxing: won first round – Spring 1922; heavyweights – Summer 1924.
  • Rugby 1st XV: a forward – Winter 1923.
  • E.F Pickering Clarke, Esq’s XV: Winter 1924.
  • Debating Society: Spring 1924.
  • O.T.C.: promotion to Sergeant – Summer 1924.
  • O.T.C.: Certificate ‘A’ – Summer 1923.
  • Prefect: Spring 1924 to Summer 1924.

After Oakham and the War

After school, David studied at Clare College, Cambridge and obtained a BA. He married Barbara and had two daughters.

David joined the Royal Berkshire Regiment, seconded to The King’s Regiment (Liverpool). He was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel.  He was mentioned in despatches.

The Royal Berkshire Regiment badge.

The Royal Berkshire Regiment badge.

His battalion took part in the Normandy landings. David was killed in action on 6th June 1944. He was 38.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Summer term 1944, Vol.59.

He is buried in grave 1.C.13 at Hermanville War Cemetery, France.



David Ronald Evans

7th February 1918 – 25th June 1944


David was the son of D. Ernest and Hilda Evans of Chester, Cheshire.


Life at Oakham

David attended Oakham School between 1932 and 1936. He was in Wharflands and he was a house prefect. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Quarter Mile handicap (open): 2nd place – Spring 1934.
  • Steeplechase (senior): 4th place – Spring 1935.
  • Interschool Steeplechase: 3rd place against Sidney Sussex – Spring 1935.
  • Mile: 1st place (5min 23sec) – Spring 1935; 1st place (5min 132/3 sec) – Spring 1936.
  • Half-mile (senior): 1st place (2min 15sec) – Spring 1935; 2nd place – Spring 1936.
  • Steeplechase: 6th place – Spring 1936.
  • 100 yards (senior): 3rd place – Spring 1936.
  • Quarter-mile (senior): 2nd place – Spring 1936.
  • Running: awarded Colours – 1936.
  • Cricket 2nd XI: awarded Colours – Summer 1935.
  • Rugby 1st XV: Winter 1935.


Oakham School Rugby 1st XV, 1935 - David is sitting bottom left.

  • O.T.C.: Certificate ‘A’ – Spring 1935; attended a course at the London District School of Instruction – Spring 1935; promotion to Lance Corporal – Spring 1935; promotion to Corporal – Winter 1935; promotion to CSQM – Spring 1936.
  • Photographic Society: Summer 1936.
  • Drama: played Philip, King of France in the School Players’ production of King John – Spring 1936.

Oakham School Magazine Reviews

The Oakhamian Magazine commented upon his rugby prowess.

Winter 1935 Rugby review: A good dribbler who was always well up in attack; must enter loose scrums with more determination; too light to be of real value except as hooker, where he was at times disappointing.’


After Oakham and the War

David came back to Oakham to play rugby in the O.O. team against the school 1st XV in the winter term 1936.

After school, David worked in banking. He served in the Cheshire Regiment, attached to 1/4th Battalion, The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He became a Lieutenant.

The Cheshire Regiment badge.

The Cheshire Regiment badge.​

His battalion took part in the Normandy landings and was later involved in Operation Epsom (26th – 30th June 1945). David was killed in action during the battle of Normandy on 25th June 1944. He was 27.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Winter term 1944, Vol.59.

He is buried in grave 4.C.9 at Tilly-sur-Seulles War Cemetery, France.



Bernard Tresham Hardy

4th November 1913 – 10th June 1944


Bernard was the son of Harold Edward and Beatrice Caroline Hardy, née Sills. He was born in Market Harborough, Leicestershire.


Life at Oakham School

Bernard attended Oakham School between 1928 and 1931. He was in Wharflands. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Music: played the violin in the orchestra – Winter 1928 to Summer 1931.


After Oakham and the War

After school, Bernard went to Selwyn College, Cambridge. He married Vivien Mary Fenton of West Acton, Middlesex, and had a daughter. He joined the Royal Armoured Corps. He was commissioned to Second Lieutenant in 13th/18th Royal Hussars (Queen Mary’s Own), Royal Armoured Corps on 12th July 1941.

The 13th/18th Royal Hussars badge.

The 13th/18th Royal Hussars badge.

He was promoted to Lieutenant in October 1942. His battalion fought in France in 1940 and was evacuated at Dunkirk. It remained in and trained in Britain until the Normandy landings. Bernard was killed in action on 10th June 1944 in Normandy. He was 30.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Summer term 1944, Vol.59.

He was awarded the Military Medal.

The Military medal.

The Military medal.

He is buried in grave 3.C.2 at Hermanville War Cemetery, France.



Reginald Geffrey Ryley

21st April 1907 – 6th June 1944


Reginald was the son of Reginald and Maud Ryley of Stratford St Andrews, Suffolk.


Life at Oakham

Reginald attended Oakham School between 1920 and 1926 He was in School House. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Debating Society: Spring 1922; Spring 1926.
  • School Certificates: Summer 1922.
  • Higher Certificates at the Oxford and Cambridge Examination Board: Summer 1925; Summer 1926.
  • Johnson Exhibition at Clare College: Spring 1926.
  • Dr Wood’s Latin Composition Prize: Summer 1926.
  • Form 6 Latin Prize: Summer 1926.
  • Prefect: Spring 1924 to Summer 1926.
  • O.T.C.: Certificate ‘A’ – Spring 1924; promotion to Corporal – Winter 1924; promotion to Sergeant – Summer 1925.
  • Drama: played Pheidippides in scenes from Aristophanes’ The Clouds – Summer 1925.
  • Drama: played the Earl of Leicester in the Form 6 production of The Rehearsal of Mr Puff’s tragedy – Summer 1926.
  • Drama: played Euripides in Aristophanes’ Acharnians – Summer 1926.
  • Rugby 1st XV: Winter 1925.
  • Half-mile (senior): 2nd place – Spring 1925; 2nd place – Spring 1926.
  • Cricket 1st XI: Summer 1925; Summer 1926.

Oakham School Cricket 1st XI, 1925 - Reginald is standing second from left.

Oakham School Cricket 1st XI, 1926 - Reginald is standing second from right.

Oakham School Magazine Reviews

The Oakhamian Magazine commented upon his rugby and cricketing prowess.

Summer 1925 Cricket review: ‘A sound field at mid-off, where he held some good catches. At present a weak bat.’

Summer 1926 Cricket review: ‘He was uncertain with the bat, but played some fair innings. A sound mid-off.’

Winter 1925 Rugby review: ‘A great trier with a fair defence; unable to control the ball with his feet, has a moderate pair of hands.’


After Oakham and the War

Reginald came back to Oakham in Winter 1926 with other O.O.s to play in G.O. Brooks, Esq’s XV against the Oakham School 1st XV.

After school, Reginald studied Classics at Clare College, Cambridge and obtained a BA. He became a Schoolmaster at Liverpool College. He was commissioned to be Second Lieutenant for service with Liverpool College Contingent on 9th January 1934. He married Barbara J.V. and had a son and a daughter.

He was a Captain in the Suffolk Regiment, nicknamed Captain Geff "Old Mother" Ryley. When the war broke out, he served as Captain with 1st Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, 8 Brigade, 3rd Division. He was the A Company Captain.

The Suffolk Regiment badge.

The Suffolk Regiment badge.

His battalion was based at Horndean, near Portsmouth on 2nd June 1944. They embarked on a Pioneer Landing Craft Assault on 6th June 1944 and sailed for 7 miles in rough seas. Reginald is reported to be one of the two men not being sick on board their L.C.A. The journey lasted for an hour and forty minutes. The target was “Queen White” beach, a Sword Beach sub-division. Reginald is the first man off the L.C.A . and sank, only his helmet was visible. His men, laughing briefly, pulled him up. The A Company targeted the German HQ bunker complex Hillman. Reginald came back from recce just before 1:00pm. The attack started at 1:10pm. The Suffolk Regiment is crawling under heavy machine-gun and mortar fire.

Reginald tried to make a dash for a breach but was shot down by machine-gun fire and was killed in front of the wire. He was 37.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Summer term 1944, Vol.59.

He is buried in grave 4.G.3 at Douvres-la-Délivrande War Cemetery, France.



Thomas Edwin Williamson

15th March 1912 – 6th June 1944


Thomas was the son of Griffith Evans and Catherine Elizabeth Williamson, of Rhyl, Flintshire.


Life at Oakham School

Thomas attended Oakham School between 1926 and 1930. He was in Hodge Wing and then moved to School House. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Form 5 English Prize: Summer 1926.
  • School Certificates: Summer 1929.
  • O.T.C.: Certificate ‘A’ – Spring 1929.
  • Music: played the side drum in the orchestra – Winter 1929.
  • Drama: played Albert Thomas in the School Players’ production of A Night at an Inn by Lord Dunsany – Spring 1930.
  • Debating Society: Spring 1930.


After Oakham and the War

After school, Thomas became a Solicitor. He served in the war as Captain with No.4 Commando, Royal Artillery.

The Royal Artillery badge.

The Royal Artillery badge.

No.4 Commando started operations on 15th July 1941 after training in Scotland in 1940. The battalion took part in Operation Claymore in the Lofoton Islands, Norway on 4th March 1941 and Operation Abercromby at Hardelot Village on 21st April 1942. It was successful in the Dieppe raid on 19th August 1942. After Dieppe, No; 4 Commando went into training before taking part in the Normandy landings, codenamed Operation Overlord. Its objectives were the liberation of Ouistreham and relieve the Airborne Units who had captured the Orne bridges. No.4 Commando embarked on their landing crafts Princess Astrid and Maid of Orleans and they were the first Commandos to hit the beaches on D-Day. They landed on Sword’s Queen Red beach.

Thomas was killed in action on D-Day. He was 32.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Winter term 1944, Vol.59.

He is buried in grave 1.M.3 at Hermanville War Cemetery, France. He is remembered on the family gravestone at Amlwch Cemetery, Wales.


D-Day Images

Royal Navy Commandos, British 2nd Army, at La Rivière, preparing to demolish two of the many beach obstacles designed to hinder the advance of an invading army. © IWM A 23992

Aerial photograph of ships of the Royal Navy massing off the Isle of Wight before setting off for the Normandy beaches. © IWM A 23720a

General view of a crowded invasion beach. © IWM A 23947

American troops crowd the deck as the landing ship tank LST 25 goes in to unload its cargo of men and trucks between St Laurent and Vierville. © IWM A 23997