Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Oakham School Archives

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

Introduction

The Italian Campaign (10th July 1943 – 2nd May 1945)

After their victory in North Africa, the Americans and British planned to invade Italy at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943. The objectives were to remove Italy Axis forces from the war, secure the communication lines in the Mediterranean Sea and drive German troops away from the Russian front and northern France.

Fighting in the American and British divisions were Algerian, Moroccan, French, Indian, Canadian, New Zealander, African American and Japanese American soldiers.

Invasion of Sicily

On 10th July 1943, Operation Husky began. It was the largest simple assault landing carried out by the Allies in the war. 180,000 soldiers landed along 105 miles of the coastline. The British 8th Army was under the command of General Sir Bernard Montgomery, and the 7th U.S. Army was led by General George Patton. The two armies composed the 15th Army Group, commanded by General Sir Harold Alexander. The landings surprised the enemy at first but the German reinforcements soon arrived and slow the Allied advanced. The 7th U.S. Army marched across the island and captured Messina on 17th August 1943. However, the Germans and Italians had managed to evacuate about 60,000 of their troops and most of their equipment to the mainland.

On 24th July 1943, Prime Minster Benito Mussolini was overthrown and arrested. A new provisional government was set up under Marshal Pietro Badoglio, who started secret discussions with the Allies about an armistice.

Invasion of Italy

On 3rd September 1943, the 8th Army crossed the Straits of Messina and invaded the ‘toe’ of the Italian peninsula. On 9th September 1943, General Clark’s 5th Army landed south of Salerno where they were met with fierce resistance, while the British 1st Airborne Division went ashore at Taranto. By the end of September, the Allies were in Naples. The Germans retreated to Monte Cassino in the Apennine Mountains. Commander Kesselring ordered to set up defensive lines across the Italian mainland. The Gustav line was the southernmost line and ran behind Monte Cassino. The Allies moved towards the Gustav Line and crossed the River Sangra and the Canadians captured Ortona in December 1943. The 8th Army had failed to capture Ordogna, and flooded rivers and stiff resistance halted the Allied invasion. Between January and May 1944, the Allies fought four battles in an attempt to break through the Gustav Line at Monte Cassino. The area was dominated by a 500-metre high monastery and the Germans had built minefields and fortifications in the surrounding hills and valleys. The Allies launched a heavy artillery bombardment on the German defences before the assault. However, the Germans used the ruins as new defensive strong posts. In May 1944, the Allied finally broke through the Gustav Line and entered the Liri Valley. The 8th Army occupied Monte Cassino. The position was secured by the 2nd Polish Corps which drove out the defenders. It was the bloodiest battle of the entire campaign.

On 22nd January 1944, the 1st British Division and the 3rd U.S. Division landed at Anzio, at 25 miles south of Rome and 70 miles behind the German lines. They met little resistance at first. But they were quickly trapped in their beach-head by the German reinforcements. On 23rd May 1944, seven Allied divisions broke out from Anzio. On 4th June 1944, the 5th Army entered in Rome but the Germans retreating from the Gustav Line were not cut off or captured and the Allied advance northwards was hampered by rains and the difficult terrain. The 8th Army broke through the Gothic Line in September 1944 and the Allies pushed across the Po Valley.

In winter 1944-1945, the Germans created an Italian Social Republic in Northern Italy but many locals supported the Allies and the new government in Rome. The Allies commandos provided arms to the partisans, sabotaging the lines of supply and communication and the struggle took on the characteristics of a civil war. They were met with fierce reprisals from the Germans.

The front remained largely static until 9th April 1945 when the British attacked in the east. The American launched an assault in the west five days later. The attacks converged on Bologna which fell on 21st April. The Allies crossed the Po on 25th April and captured Verona on 26th April 1945. Mussolini had been rescued by German commandos and he retreated north with the German and the Italian Social Republic. He was captured by partisans and executed on 28th April 1945. On 2nd May 1945, the Germans in Italy surrendered.

Casualties: 313,000 Allied soldiers, including 26,000 Canadians and 336,000 German soldiers were killed, wounded or missing; the American lost 59,000 men at Anzio. Sicily and Italy were the theatres of some of the bloodiest and costly fighting of the war.

Old Oakhamians who Fell During the Invasion of Sicily and Italy.

James Henry Banning Blake

18th September 1918 – 16th October 1945

 

James was the son of Leonard and Lois Blake of Corwen, Wales.

 

Life at Oakham

James attended Oakham School between 1930 and 1937. He was in Junior House and then moved to School House. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Form 2 English Prize: Summer 1931.
  • Form 5 Mathematics Prize: Summer 1935.
  • Music Prize: Summer 1936.
  • School Certificate in Latin and Maths: Summer 1936.
  • Higher Certificate in Chemistry and Physics: Winter 1936.
  • Assistant Organist: Summer 1935 to Spring 1937.
  • Music Prefect: Winter 1936.
  • Head Musician: Spring 1937 to Summer 1937.
  • Prefect: Spring 1937 to Summer 1937.
  • Music: performed an organ recital – Spring 1937.
  • Swimming: obtained the Intermediate Certificate and the Bronze Medallion of the Royal Life Saving Society – Summer 1937.
  • O.T.C.: promotion to Lance Corporal – Winter 1934; promotion to Corporal – Winter 1935; promotion to Sergeant and Drum-Major – Winter 1936; attended a course on instruction in tactics at Regent Park’s Barracks – Winter 1936; represented the contingent at the Coronation celebrations in London – Summer 1937.

 

After Oakham and the War

After school, James went to RAF Cranwell. He was promoted to the rank of Flying Officer on 12th September 1939 (The London Gazette, 20th October 1939). He was granted the rank of Flying Lieutenant on 17th November 1941 (The London Gazette, 28th May 1943). He was promoted to temporary Squadron Leader (The London Gazette, 16th December 1941). He was promoted to Squadron Leader on 23rd April 1944 (The London Gazette, 9th June 1944). On 1st July 1945, he was promoted to temporary Wing Commander (The London Gazette, 28th August 1945).

He died in an air accident at Capodichino, Italy. He was 37.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Winter term 1945, Vol.59.

He is buried in grave IV.M.10 at Naples War Cemetery, Italy.

 

Bibliography

https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2239182/blake,-james-henry-banning/

Ronald Vincent Geoffrey Currall

6th April 1918 – 23rd February 1944

 

Ronald was the son of Lawrence Vincent and Winifred V.H. Currall of Eastbourne, Sussex.

 

Life at Oakham School

Ronald attended Oakham School between 1931 and 1936. He was in School House. He was a house prefect. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Debating Society: Winter 1932 to Spring 1936.
  • Philatelic Society: honorary secretary – Winter 1933 to Summer 1936.
  • Drama: played in the School Players’ production of Wurzel Flummery by A.A. Milne – Spring 1934; School Players’ skits – Spring 1936.
  • O.T.C.: Certificate ‘A’ – Winter 1934; promotion to Lance Corporal – Spring 1936.
  • School Certificate in Latin: Summer 1934.
  • Dr. Wood’s Classics Prize: Summer 1936.
  • Kitchener Scholarship: Summer 1936.
  • Johnson Exhibition: Summer 1936.
  • Rugby 2nd lot: Captain – Winter 1935.

Oakham School Magazine reviews

The Oakhamian Magazine commented upon his acting skills.

Spring 1934 Drama review: ‘captivated the audience by a really excellent piece of acting.’

 

After Oakham and the War

After school, Ronald studied Theology and English Literature at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and obtained a BA (Cantab.). When the war broke out, he enlisted as a Sub-Lieutenant in 2/7th Battalion, The Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey), 169 Brigade.

The Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey) badge.

The Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey) badge.

His battalion fought in France in 1940. Ronald was commissioned Lieutenant in 1941. In 1942, his Regiment was sent in the Western Desert, attached to the 8th Army. 169 Brigade joined 56 London Division (the “Black Cats”) and took part in the capture of Tunis in May 1943. Then, they fought in the landings at Salerno, Italy, in September 1943. 169 Brigade remained in Italy until the end of the war. Ronald was killed in action in Anzio, Italy. He was 25.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Spring term 1945, Vol.59.

He received the Military Cross (The London Gazette, 10th February 1944).

The Military Cross.

The Military Cross.

He is buried in grave 18.G.3 at Beach Head War Cemetery, Anzio, Italy.

 

Bibliography

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen%27s_Royal_Regiment_(West_Surrey)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_Cross

James Woodroofe Guy Fletcher

26th June 1913 – 12th May 1944

 

James was the son of Edward Harris and Marion Philippa Fletcher of Wilmslow, Cheshire.

 

Life at Oakham School

James attended Oakham School between 1925 and 1930. He was in Junior House and then moved to Wharflands. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Lower Second Form English and Latin Prizes: Summer 1925.
  • Second Form Trustees’ Prize: Summer 1926.
  • Lower Form 5 English Prize: Summer 1929.

 

After Oakham and the War

After school, James studied Social Sciences in Liverpool. He worked in Banking. He played rugby for Wilmslow RUFC. When the war broke out, he joined the Royal Artillery, 64 Anti-Tank Regiment (The Queen’s Own Royal Glasgow Yeomanry). He became a Captain.

The Queen’s Own Royal Glasgow Yeomanry badge.

The Queen’s Own Royal Glasgow Yeomanry badge.

James died in Sicily. He was 30.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Winter term 1945, Vol.59.

He is buried in grave 1.F.2 at Salerno War Cemetery.

 
Bibliography

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/QUEENS-OWN-ROYAL-GLASGOW-YEOMANRY-GENUINE-CAP-BADGE-/143537020004

https://www.cheshireroll.co.uk/soldier/?i=26510/134651captain-james%20woodroofe%20guy-fletcher

https://www.pitchero.com/clubs/wilmslow/a/club-history-19930.html?page=2

Norman James Ingram

4th August 1919 – 18th September 1944

 

Norman was the son of Harold Percy and Mary Elizabeth Ingram of Ilkley, Yorkshire.

 

Life at Oakham School

Norman attended Oakham School between 1932 and 1937. He was in Wharflands. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Cricket under 14: Summer 1933.
  • J. Moore, Esq’s XI: Summer 1936.
  • Cricket 1st XI: Summer 1937.
  • Hockey: Spring 1935.
  • Rugby 2nd lot: awarded Colours – Winter 1935.
  • Rugby 1st XV: awarded Colours – Winter 1936; Winter 1937.

1936 Rugby 1st XV.

Oakham School Rugby 1st XV, 1936 - Norman is sitting second from the right.

1937 Rugby 1st XV.

Oakham School Rugby 1st XV, 1937 - Norman is sitting second from the left.

  • Shooting: Spring 1936.
  • 100 yards (senior): 2nd place – Spring 1937.
  • Long jump (senior): 3rd place – Spring 1937.
  • Drama: played Shultz in the School Players’ production of The Death Trap by H.H. Munro – Spring 1934.
  • Drama: played Hubert de Burgh in the Form 5 production of King John – Spring 1936.
  • Form 4 Trustees’ Prize: Winter 1933.
  • History Prize: Summer 1935.
  • School Certificate in History: Summer 1936.
  • Prefect: Summer 1937 to Winter 1937.
  • Games’ Committee: Summer 1937 to Winter 1937.
  • O.T.C.: promotion to Lance Corporal – Summer 1935; Certificate ‘A’ – Winter 1935; promotion to Sergeant – Summer 1936; promotion to CSM – Winter 1937.

Oakham School Magazine reviews

The Oakhamian Magazine commented upon his rugby prowess.

Winter 1936 Rugby review: ’A very sound full back; tackling and fielding excellent but kicking not always reliable, although sometimes very good; occasionally joined in attack with good effect.’

Winter 1937 Rugby review: ’After an indifferent start, played some brilliant games; tackling very sound; fielding, kicking and positioning excellent; unlucky to miss the later matches through injury.’

 

After Oakham and the War

After school, Norman served in 8th Battalion, The Duke of Wellington’s Own. He was promoted to Major.

The Duke of Wellington's Own Regiment badge.

The Duke of Wellington's Own Regiment badge.

His battalion was converted to 145 Regiment Royal Armoured Corps in 1941.

The Royal Armoured Corps badge.

The Royal Armoured Corps badge.

It took part in fighting in North Africa and Italy. After the Allied forces landed in Italy, they moved northwards, pushing the Germans back. In September 1944, the Allies fought at Coriano Ridge. Norman was killed in action in Italy on 18th September 1944. He was 25.

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

He is buried in grave 12.B.3 at Coriano Bridge War Cemetery, Italy.

 

Bibliography

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_of_Wellington%27s_Regiment

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Armoured_Corps

Charles Peter Nicholson

11th July 1919 – 20th January 1944

 

Charles was the son of Charles and Dorothy Isabel Nicholson of Sheffield.

 

Life at Oakham School

Charles attended Oakham School between 1933 and 1937. He was in School House. His school achievements are listed below:

  • O.T.C.: Certificate ‘A’ – Spring 1937.

 

After Oakham and the War

After school, Charles served as Captain with 467 Battery, 92 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. On 23rd March 1940, he received an emergency commission to serve as Second Lieutenant.

The Royal Artillery badge.

The Royal Artillery badge.

His battalion took part in the invasion of mainland Italy in 1943. Charles died of wounds suffered during his regiment’s attempt at crossing the Gargliano (then, the German line). He was 24.

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

He is buried in grave 3.G.20 at Minturno War Cemetery, Italy.

 

Bibliography

https://www.unithistories.com/officers/Army_officers_N01.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Artillery

Jack Michael O’Hagan

22nd April 1924 – 18th February 1944

 

Jack was the son of Harry and Florence Elizabeth O’Hagan of East Sheen, Surrey.

 

Life at Oakham

Jack attended Oakham School between 1938 and 1941. He was in Wharflands. He was a house prefect. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Hockey: Wharflands’ house team – Spring 1940.
  • Hockey: Spring 1941.
  • Rugby: a forward in Wharflands’ senior house team – Winter 1939.
  • Rugby 1st XV: awarded Colours – Winter 1940; Winter 1941.

1941 Rugby 1st XV

Oakham School Rugby 1st XV, 1941 - Jack is sitting second to the left.

  • Boxing: welter weight, won his match in the house competition – Spring 1940.
  • Swimming obstacle race (senior) – 2nd place – Summer 1940.
  • Games’ Committee: Winter 1941.
  • J.T.C.: promotion to Lance Corporal – Spring 1941; promotion to Corporal – Summer 1941.

Oakham School Magazine reviews

The Oakhamian Magazine comments upon his rugby and hockey prowess.

Spring 1940 house Hockey review: ‘O’Hagan deserves a special word for his goal-keeping.’

Winter 1940 Rugby review: ‘A light forward; somewhat erratic but has determination and stamina and works hard in the loose.’

Winter 1941 Rugby review: ‘A light forward whose play improved late in the season.’

 

After Oakham and the War

After school, Jack enlisted in the Royal Navy. He served as a Signalman on board HMS Penelope, a light cruiser. The ship was returning from bombarding enemy position during Operation Shingle (the landings at Anzio), in which she was part of the Gunfire Support Group TG 81.8. She was about 35 miles west of Naples when she was hit by a torpedo from U-410 (a U-boat) at 6:58am on 18th February 1944. She sank after being hit in the after boiler room at 7:16am. Jack was among the 419 casualties. He was 19.

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

Jack is remembered on panel 84, column 2 of the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, Hampshire.

 

Bibliography

https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/ship/3190.html

Nigel Reginald Pearce

2nd November 1921 – 5th September 1944

 

Nigel was the son of Reginald Albert Samuel Pearce and Frances Ethel Pearce, née Church of Belvedere Road, Burton. He had a sister, Hazel.

 

Life at Oakham School

Nigel attended Oakham School between 1931 and 1940. He was in Misses Daniels’ and then moved to Junior House and School House. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Three-legged race (junior): 2nd place – Spring 1933; joint 2nd place – Spring 1935.
  • Tug of war: in the winning team – Spring 1935.
  • Obstacle race (junior): 2nd place – Spring 1935.
  • Long jump (junior): 2nd place – Spring 1937.
  • Quarter-mile handicap (open): 2nd place – Spring 1937.
  • Mile: 1st place (5min 15 sec) – Spring 1940.
  • Steeplechase (senior): 1st place (31 min 471/5 sec) – Spring 1940.
  • Half-mile (senior): 2nd place – Spring 1940.
  • Swimming one length (under 13): 2nd place – Summer 1934.
  • Swimming two lengths breast stroke (under 14): 3rd place – Summer 1935.
  • Rugby under 14: awarded Colours – Winter 1935.
  • Rugby 1st XV: awarded Colours – Winter 1938; Captain – Winter 1939.

1938 Rugby 1st XV.

Oakham School Rugby 1st XV, 1938 - Nigel is standing second from the left.

  • Rugby: Captain of School House’s team – Winter 1939.
  • Shooting: Captain – Winter 1939; Spring 1940.
  • Hockey: in School House’s team – Spring 1940.
  • Running: awarded Colours – Spring 1940; 1st place against Uppingham 2nd VIII – Spring 1940.
  • Boxing: light heavy weight, won his match in the house competition – Spring 1940.
  • Royal Saving Society Certificate and Bronze Medallion: Summer 1938.
  • Form 2 English Prize: Summer 1935.
  • Prefect: Winter 1939 to Spring 1940.
  • Games’ Committee: Winter 1939 to Spring 1940.
  • Scouts Junior Troop: Pathfinder badge – Spring 1936.
  • O.T.C.: won the ‘young soldiers’ competition – Summer 1937; Certificate ‘A’ – Spring 1938; promotion to Corporal – Winter 1938.; promotion to Sergeant – Summer 1939.

Oakham School Magazine reviews

The Oakhamian Magazine commented upon his rugby prowess.

Winter 1938 Rugby review: ‘A front row forward who works hard, but rather slow. Defence not very sound.’

Winter 1939 Rugby review: ‘As captain he has a difficult task in building up a team, but he has set an admirable example to the rest of the side and led them well. With the advantage of both height and weight, his work in the lineout was particularly good and in the loose his experience and dash have been invaluable. A safe tackle.’

 

After Oakham and the War

After school, Nigel served a Lieutenant with the Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment).

The Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment badge.

The Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment badge.

He fought in the Allies advance in Italy. He died on 6th September 1944 during the capture of Coriano Ridge in the Adriatic sector. He was 22.

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

He is buried in grave 7.F.9 at Coriano Ridge War Cemetery, Italy. He is also remembered in St Wystan’s Churchyard, Repton.

 

Bibliography

http://www.reptonvillage.org.uk/history_group/ww2_pearce_1.pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherwood_Foresters

Nigel Dennis Stickland

16th October 1918 – 15th July 1943

 

Nigel was the son of Harold John and Violet Stickland of Harrogate, Yorkshire.

 

Life at Oakham School

Nigel attended Oakham School between 1932 and 1935. He was in School House. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Scouts: left in Spring 1933.
  • O.T.C.: Certificate ‘A’ – Winter 1935.

 

After Oakham and the War

After school, Nigel married Phyllis Dorothy of Harrogate, Yorkshire, and had a son. He served in the war as Lieutenant with Leicestershire Regiment, seconded to 1st Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment.

The Leicestershire Regiment badge.

The Leicestershire Regiment badge.

His Regiment led the Allied assault in Italy. They landed on the south-east tip of Sicily, occupied by the Germans. Nigel was killed in action on 15th July 1943 in the Sicily landings. He was 24.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Winter term 1943, Vol.58.

He is buried in grave 6.B.10 at Syracuse War Cemetery, Sicily.

 

Bibliography

https://www.keepmilitarymuseum.org/history/second+world+war/the+dorsetshire+regiment/the+first+battalion

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Leicestershire_Regiment

John Walter Womersley

22nd May 1919 – 14th November 1944

 

John was the son of Right Honourable Sir Walter James and Lady Womersley of Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire.

 

Life at Oakham School

John attended Oakham School between 1931 and 1936. He was in School House and was a House Prefect. His school achievements are listed below:

  • Cricket under 14: Summer 1933.
  • Rugby 2nd XV: awarded Colours – Winter 1935.
  • O.T.C.: Certificate ‘A’ – Winter 1935; promotion to Lance Corporal – Winter 1935.
  • Oakhamian prize for the best account of a cricket match: Summer 1936.
  • Music: played in the band “School House Players” – Spring 1936.

 

After Oakham and the War

After school, John became an Accountant. He married Betty, of Cleethorpes, and had a son. During the war, he served as Captain with 6th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, 138 Brigade, 46th Infantry Division.

The Lincolnshire Regiment badge.

The Lincolnshire Regiment badge.

His battalion took part in the Salerno landings on 9th September 1943 and further fighting in Sicily and Italy. They fought in the second battle of Monte Camino in December 1943. They captured the lopes of Monte Rotondo East on 28th January 1944. In September 1944, the battalion was in the Gemmano Ridge sector. John was killed in action in Italy on 14th November 1944. He was 25.

Roll of honour in the Oakhamian Magazine, Winter term 1945, Vol.59.

He is buried in grave 1.C.13 at Meldola War Cemetery, Italy. He is remembered on the family gravestone in Cleethorpes Cemetery.

 
Bibliography

https://www.naval-military-press.com/product/history-of-the-sixth-battalion-the-lincolnshire-regiment-1940-45/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Lincolnshire_Regiment

Italy and Sicily Images

Royal Navy soldiers ashore in Sicily from landing craft, 10th July 1943. © IWM A 17959

51st Highland Division unloading stores from tank landing craft in Sicily, 10th July 1943.

Troops of the 3rd Carpathian Rifles Division, 2nd Polish Corps and their mule ascending a trail in the mountains, probably in southern Apennines, early 1944. © IWM TA 15744

80th (Scottish Horse) Regiment firing a gun at Anzio, March 1944. © IWM NA 12735

A low aerial view of the Monastery of Monte Cassino showing its complete destruction, May 1944.