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Remembering those we lost

This Thursday saw us once again joining together in the school hall to commemorate the fallen from Warwick School. This year the event saw us looking back at the Second World War and started with an address by the current Head Master. He read out the Headmaster’s letter to the Old Warwickians (OWs) from the December 1940 issue of the Portcullis.

Whilst so much was familiar to us; discussions of the weather, the rugby team’s results and events in the boarding house, the background of war could not be avoided. Mentions of bombing raids on the Midlands, teachers leaving the school to fight and news on OWs missing after the withdrawal to Dunkirk give a very different tone to the address. By the time Headmaster Bishop wrote his letter in December 1940 there were already ten OWs who had given their lives in service for their country.

The list of foreign fields in which OWs are buried is extensive. Some are on memorials in Britain, but the list of locations ranges from France and Germany to Egypt, Hong Kong and Damascus. I wish now to share some of the individual stories of boys from the school whom we heard from in the assembly.

Three members of the 1934-35 First VV were lost, From Left to right they were:

Derreck Rowan-Robinson, he played in the forwards and was also the school’s boxing champion. Joining the RAF for the war he became a pilot. His Hampden bomber was shot down over the North Sea in April 1940 whilst on a minelaying operation. He was just 22 years old.

Richard Marrack was head of the boarding house in 1934. He was also House Captain of Brooke and part of the Physics society.  He played rugby for the school as a forward ‘where he often did useful work attaching himself to the backline.’ He joined the RAF and became a Spitfire pilot. He died in operations against the Japanese in November 1944 aged 28. 

George Measures was a forward for the 1st XV in 1934 and lived in Warwick. He was dominant in the lineout although he was a bit slow around the pitch. Whilst at school he was also a member of the debating society. On top of this he was an able violinist and took part in the school play ‘The Gondoliers’ in 1934.  He would go on to gain a degree from Cambridge. He joined the Royal Navy serving on the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable. He was lost at sea and was when the ship was bombed in the Mediterranean on August 12th 1943 (picture below). He was 25 years old. 

  1 HMS Indomitable was hit by two bombs dropped by Stuka dive bombers on the evening of August 12th.

From the 1939 Cricket First XI John Davies and Jack Coles were lost during the war.  

Jack Coles (seated centre) was a very talented sportsman at Warwick, where he was captain of both rugby and cricket. The Head of Cricket wrote of him, ‘His pleasant personality and quiet authority made him an ideal leader.’ He was in Greville house, achieving 3rd place in House Cross-Country. Jack joined the RAF for the war and became a pilot. Based in Iceland, where he piloted a Lockheed Hudson on anti-submarine operations, his plane crashed in 1943. He was 22 years old.   

John Davies also joined the RAF. He died on December 21st 1942 aged 20 when his Stirling bomber was shot down over France. This is what the portcullis printed on the news of his death:

In the death of John Davies the school has suffered the loss of one of it most charming and distinguished members. It was only a short time ago that we heard with pride, but without surprise, that he had been awarded the D.F.M. [Distinguished Flying Medal] for the skill and courage with which he extricated his bomber from a perilous situation during a raid over Germany.

The outbreak of war caused him to leave school in the midst of a career of exceptional promise. Everything he did revealed easy and powerful gifts. His scholarship foreshadowed university honours and he had acted as an important part of the school play. But it was as a sportsman that we most vividly remember him, especially on the cricket field. Both as a bowler and a batsman he showed the touch of mastery which distinguished the first class player from the rest. He was good-humoured, modest and always concerned for the success of others. He was beloved and respected by all who know him, and we join his family in morning his untimely death.’

I hope you found these stories and images of Old Warwickians both interesting and reflective ahead of the Remembrance Sunday this weekend. I will leave you with one last point. Michael Mattinson son of Michael and Margaret Mattison of Offchuch, died on the 16th June 1944 in the assault on the Trasimene Line north of Rome. We know less about Peter than we do about others, but we do have the inscription on his headstone in Orvieto Cemetry, Italy.

He did a very brave and courageous act

Written by Mr O'Brien, Head of History