Bill Page (First From Left) clearing the hurdles on the Emanuel School Sports Field
William known as ‘Bill’ was a talented athlete at Emanuel.
He was also a Prefect and Captain of Drake. The Portcullis
recorded some of his many sporting achievements:
“There have been few in recent years who could rival
Bill Page’s achievement in games. In both Rugger and
Cricket he received Colours in five successive seasons,
from 1935 to 1939. Tall and powerfully built, he was
a fine forward and a successful captain in his last two
Bill Page (Second from Right) Emanuel Cricket XI
In the Cricket XI he was a valuable bowler,
slow left-hand with a nice variation of pace and flight
and a forceful bat. He proved a skilful captain in the
1939 season. What one admired most, however, in his
sports activities was the tireless devotion with which he
coached younger boys in junior team rugger practices,
in the nets, or on the fives courts. His all-round
excellence, together with his seriousness and depth of
character, won him general respect and made his name
something of a legend.”
Bill Page was politically aware in an era when international
politics was critical to the lives of ordinary citizens
everywhere, and was selected to take part in a Youth Group
discussion which was broadcast on the BBC.
Bill Page in East Surrey Regiment uniform
He was originally a Conscientious Objector but enlisted in the East Surrey Regiment, first serving in a pioneer unit, then in the Royal Engineers and, finally gaining a Commission as a Lieutenant, he was attached to the 9th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). Bill was killed in action around 5.20pm on 26 December 1944 during bitter fighting on the northeast coast of Italy as his company was ordered to hold the via Mazzolana, south-east of Ferrara. The Allied advance up the north-east coast had been fiercely contested by German forces during the Christmas period.
In 2013 I was in the archive of the Royal Fusiliers in the Tower of London researching Emanuel boys who had served in the 9th Battalion Royal Fusiliers in the Second World War. I was looking through a scrap book of photos relating to the 9th Battalion and having found a number of items I put this rather delicate old book back in its case. I stood up to walk away when I felt that I had to open the book again – something was telling me that I hadn’t found everything I was looking for that day. As I opened the pages again a small photo dropped out of one of the back pages. When I looked closely at it I could see it was a photo of one of the original graves from the Italian Campaign with a simple wooden cross. On the cross were the initials W. L. Page. It was a photo of Bill’s grave taken by an anonymous photographer. It was a photo Bill’s family had never seen. Bill’s brothers had all died before I started writing the history of Emanuel School at War but during the Emanuel School at War Exhibition in November 2014 the Page family were all in attendance to see Bill and his brothers’ war service remembered.
Today marks the 70th anniversary of Bill’s death and I wanted to mark it by remembering that young man full of life who could have scored many more runs on the cricket pitch had it not been for war.
Daniel Kirmatzis Boxing Day 2014
Bill Page’s grave in Forli War Cemetery
Bill’s brother Eddie and his wife at Bill’s grave in the 1990s