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Oakham School Archives

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

Introduction

The Battle of Dunkirk (26th May - 4th June 1940)

In May 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands, Luxemburg and Belgium in a blitzkrieg attack. Their coordinated strategy, superior fire power and mobile ground forces overwhelmed the Allied defences. The German Army occupied Luxemburg on 10th May 1940, and they launched an attack on the Netherlands. The country surrendered on 14th May 1940.

The German tanks broke through the Belgian front on 11th May, forcing the French, Belgian and British divisions to fall back to a line between Antwerp and Namur. On 13th May, the Germans crossed the Meuse and broke through the French defences on 15th May 1940. The French troops were forced to withdraw to the line of the Oise a day later. They had failed to stop the fast advancing German army and were unable to launch a counterattack. The Germans reached Amiens on 19th May and Abbeville the next day. On 22nd May, they turned north up the coast in a drive for Calais and Dunkirk and south down to Arras, the British rear position. Belgium capitulated on 28th May 1940. The Germans successfully cut off all communication and transport between the northern and southern branches of the Allied forces, pushing hundred of thousands Allied troops in the north of France.

By 19th May 1940, General John Gort, commander of the British Expeditionary Force, had begun to contemplate a possible evacuation of his entire force by sea. The Admiralty started to requisition small crafts and between 800 and 1,200 leisure and fishing craft, the “Little Ships”, sailed to the French coast to save the soldiers stranded on the beaches. Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his advisers expected to rescue only 20,000 to 30,000 men.

Admiral Bertram Ramsay was in command of the Operation Dynamo, from a room deep in the Dover cliffs. He tasked Captain William Tenant with tactical oversight of the evacuation. Captain Tennant, the “beachmaster”, arrived at Dunkirk on 27th May 1940. In the evening of 26th May 1940, the evacuation began. The Luftwaffe launched relentless bombing attacks on the beaches, even as the RAF planes tried to stop the enemy planes, losing many aircraft and men in the process. In one full day, 7,500 men were evacuated; 10,000 were saved on the second day. The “Little ships” started to arrive on 28th May 1940. The last British troops were evacuated on 3rd June 1940, with the French forces covering their escape. Overall, 198,000 British and 140,000 French and Belgian troops were saved. Most of the equipment was left behind, including tanks, jeeps, ammunitions and machine guns, and 90,000 Allied forces were left behind and most were taken prisoners by the Germans. The Germans occupied Dunkirk on 4th June 1940.

The “Miracle of Dunkirk” was a turning point in the Allied war effort. In Britain, it became an iconic symbol of the British spirit. In France however, Paris fell on 14th June 1940 and Marshal Pétain signed an armistice with Germany at Compiègne eight days later. Germany annexed half of the country.

Old Oakhamians who Fell During the Battle of Dunkirk

John Morris Emerton

3rd August 1919 – 25th May 1940

 

John was the son of John E. and Annie Emerton of Wymondham, Leicestershire.

 

Life at Oakham School

John attended Oakham School between 1931 and 1937. He was in the Day Boys. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Long jump (junior): 1st place (14ft 6in) – Spring 1932.
  • 220 yards open (junior): 2nd place – Spring 1932; 2nd place – Spring 1935.
  • High jump (junior): 1st Place (4ft 2in) – Spring 1932; joint 2nd place – Spring 1933.
  • High jump (senior): 2nd place – spring 1936; 2nd place – Spring 1937.
  • Rugby 2nd lot: awarded Colours – Winter 1936.
  • Prefect: Winter 1935 to Summer 1936.
  • Head Prefect: Winter 1936 to Spring 1937.
  • Games’ Committee: Winter 1936 to Spring 1937.
  • Form 3 Mathematics Prize: Summer 1933.
  • Form 4 Science Prize: Summer 1934.
  • O.T.C.: promotion to Lance Corporal – Summer 1935; Certificate ‘A’ – Winter 1935; promotion to Sergeant – Spring 1936; promotion to CSM – Winter 1936; represented the contingent at the Coronation Celebrations in London – Spring 1937.

 

After Oakham and the War

After school, John worked as a local government officer. He joined 2/5th Battalion, The Leicestershire Regiment and became Second Lieutenant.

The Leicestershire Regiment badge.

The Leicestershire Regiment badge.

John was killed during the evacuation at Dunkirk in 1940. He was 20.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Summer term 1940, Vol.55.

He is remembered on column 48 of Dunkirk Memorial.

 

Bibliography

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Royal_Leicestershire_Regiment_Cap_Badge.jpg

Robert Colin Hodgson

13th October 1918 – 17th June 1940

 

Robert was the son of Dr Robert E. and Mary Hodgson of Burley-in-Wharfedale, Yorkshire.

 

Life at Oakham School

Robert attended Oakham School between 1931 and 1935. He was in Wharflands. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Fives: Spring 1934.
  • High jump (senior): 2nd place – Spring 1935.
  • Rugby 1st XV: Winter 1934.

1934 Rugby 1st XV.

Oakham School Rugby 1st XV, 1934 - Robert is standing third from right.

  • Cricket 1 XI: awarded Colours – Summer 1935.

Oakham School Cricket 1st XI, 1935 - Robert is standing second from right.

Oakham School Magazine reviews

The Oakhamian Magazine made comments upon his rugby and cricketing prowess.

Winter 1934 Rugby review: ‘Fair kick with right foot, but should try to kick higher; tackling only moderate; very good hands but rather slow.’

Summer 1935 Cricket review: ‘Took some time to find his form, but then batted well after the first few overs; his bowling proved ineffective; a fair field.’

 

After Oakham and the War

After school, Robert enlisted in the Royal Air Force. He was Acting Pilot Officer on probation and was graded as Pilot Officer on probation on 14th October 1939.

The Royal Air Force badge.

The Royal Air Force badge.

He was in Dunkirk on 17th June 1940 and he and Commonwealth soldiers were trying to escape by train. Robert died in the German bombing of the train. He was 21.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Summer term 1940, Vol.55.

He is buried in grave 18.1.A.107 at Rennes Eastern Communal Cemetery, France.

 

Bibliography

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:RAF-Badge.svg

Richard Francis Olive

16th November 1907 – 31st May 1940

 

Richard was the son of Charles and Mary Olive of Kettering.

 

Life at Oakham

Richard attended Oakham School between 1919 and 1924. He was in Misses Daniels’ and then moved to School House. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Music: a treble in the choir – Winter 1919 to Summer 1924.
  • Form 5 Trustees’ Prize: Summer 1922.
  • Form 5 Latin Prize: Summer 1922.
  • Form 5 English Prize: Summer 1922.
  • School Certificate: Summer 1923.
  • Royal Drawing Society Examination: passed Division II with honours – Summer 1924.
  • O.T.C.: promotion to Lance Corporal – Summer 1924.
  • Form 5 Trustees’ Prize: Summer 1922.
  • Form 5 Latin Prize: Summer 1922.
  • Form 5 English Prize: Summer 1922.
  • School Certificate: Summer 1923.
  • Royal Drawing Society Examination: passed Division II with honours – Summer 1924.

After Oakham and the War

After school, Richard obtained a BA at Queen’s College, Cambridge. He worked in Insurance. He married Mabel K. of Willaston, Cheshire. He served as Lieutenant with 2nd Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment.

The Gloucestershire Regiment badge.

The Gloucestershire Regiment badge.

His battalion fought in the Battle of France and suffered immense casualties at the Battle of Dunkirk. Richard was killed in the retreat to and evacuation of Dunkirk on 31st May 1941. He was 32.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Winter term 1941, Vol.56.

He is remembered on column 56 of the Dunkirk Memorial, France.

 

Bibliography

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Glosters_front_badge_circa_1957_trspt.png

Hugh Pope

8th May 1918 – 27th May 1940

 

Hugh was the son of Arthur Cecil and Mary Bradley Pope of Oakham.

 

Life at Oakham

Hugh attended Oakham School between 1927 and 1936. He was in the Day Boys and then moved to School House. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Head Librarian: Winter 1935.
  • Head Musician: Winter 1935 to Summer 1936.
  • Games’ Committee: Spring 1936 to Summer 1936.
  • Prefect: Summer 1936.
  • Mr Sweatman’s Lower School Reading Prize: Summer 1930.
  • Waite memorial Prize: Summer 1935.
  • Form 3 English Prize – Summer 1931.
  • O.T.C.: promotion to Lance Corporal – Summer 1934; Certificate ‘A’ – Winter 1934; promotion to Sergeant – Winter 1935.

C.C.F. Camp in 1934 in Tweseldown - Hugh is on the far left.

  • Cricket under 14: awarded Colours – Summer 1931; Captain – Summer 1932.
  • Cricket 2nd XI: Summer 1934.
  • Cricket 1st XI: awarded Colours – Summer 1934; Summer 1935; Captain – Summer 1936.

Oakham School Cricket 1st XI, 1934 - Hugh is standing on the far left.

Oakham School Cricket 1st XI, 1935 - Hugh is sat on the far right.

Oakham School Cricket 1st XI, 1936 - Hugh is the captain, sat in the centre.

  • Fives: Captain – Spring 1936.​
  • Reading Society: Winter 1935.
  • Music: sang a solo in the Carol service – Winter 1935.

Oakham School Magazine Reviews

The Oakhamian Magazine commented upon his cricketing prowess.

Summer 1934 Cricket review: ‘A steady opening bat who at present is lacking attacking strokes and does not use his feet; he has patience and played two invaluable innings; slow in the field.’

Summer 1935 Cricket review: ‘Once again proved a useful opening batsman; needs to be more aggressive; a good field close in.’

Summer 1936 Cricket review: ‘A useful bat, he showed more enterprise than last year and played some good innings; a sound field close in; captained the side well under considerable difficulties.’

 

After Oakham and the War

After school, Hugh studied at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and obtained a BA. He then went to study Theology at Lincoln. He joined 2/5th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment in January 1940 from RMC Sandhurst. He was promoted to Second Lieutenant.

The Leicestershire Regiment badge.

The Leicestershire Regiment badge.

He was killed on 27th May 1940 at Dunkirk after being hit by sustained machine-gun and mortar fire. He was 22.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Summer term 1940, Vol.55.

He is buried in grave 2.H.2 at Carvin Communal Cemetery, France. He is also remembered on Oakham War Memorial, All Saints’ Church.

 

Bibliography

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=e5YqoS1AHVQC&pg=SL16-PA35&lpg=SL16-PA35&dq=Hugh+Pope+leicestershire+regiment&source=bl&ots=vDA-LnCpX7&sig=ACfU3U35sChItf_qz-RS0Wg_iUcigkCFMg&hl=fr&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiE8sbn38DpAhWFSxUIHRnHDGoQ6AEwAHoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=Hugh%20Pope%20leicestershire%20regiment&f=false

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Royal_Leicestershire_Regiment_Cap_Badge.jpg

Dunkirk Images

A Lockheed Hudson of No. 220 Squadron RAF approaches Dunkirk on a reconnaissance patrol during the evacuation of the BEF, May-June 1940. © IWM C 1722

British troops line up on the beach at Dunkirk to await evacuation, May 1940.

British soldiers wade out to a waiting destroyer off Dunkirk during Operation Dynamo. © IWM HU 41240

British anti-aircraft guns lie abandoned at Dunkirk in 1940. © IWM HU 2286