Captured in France – May 1940

With Spitfire 1

Douglas “Sammy” Hoare first from left

Douglas “Sammy” Hoare (Emanuel 1929-1935) 74 Squadron RAF – recounts his experiences in the lead up to his capture in France during the evacuation – May 1940. His full story can be found in Emanuel School at War: The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was

Dunkirk – May 1940
During May 1940 Douglas, by now a Flying Officer, was contemplating the situation on the continent as the Germans launched their invasion of France and the Low Countries.
On 10 May, the day the invasion was launched, Douglas was looking forward to some leave when he wrote to his mother, ‘I was looking forward very much to the weekend at home and possibly a day at the coast. I expect Dick [Wildey] has been recalled also – it really is most annoying that the Blitzkrieg should have to start this weekend and just when
my leave is starting too.

On 21 May 1940 Douglas wrote again to his mother: ‘I don’t think I have written since you sent my Portcullis [Emanuel School Magazine] – thank you very much for it. It was very interesting reading through that list and seeing what some of the other fellows are doing.
There is actually hardly anything to say as everything here is still just the same as before
and there is very little real activity. We have had one or two more trips to the Dutch and
Belgian coast but have not seen anything worth shooting at. There is absolutely no sign
of life at all in any of the towns over there and we saw quite a number of large fires in Dunkirk which had been started by a raid the previous night. I hope that everyone is taking ARP [Air Raid Precaution] seriously now as it will not be very long before we get
some raids over here – that is when we shall start really hard work. The situation in France seems pretty bad at present but perhaps we will bring off a really good counter-attack soon. We are also very proud of the RAF squadrons out there – and slightly envious, though we are all quite certain we shall get all the chance we want when it starts over here.

In May 1940 No. 74 Squadron was engaged on operations over the French Coast during the German Blitzkrieg which forced the BEF to coastal waters in a bid to escape the ferocity and speed of the German advance. On 24 May Douglas noted, ‘I was leading the sub-section of B Flight 74 Squadron on an offensive patrol over the Channel Ports. (Intelligence at that [time] was almost non-existent and we had no idea where
the German front line was).’ He went on to describe what happened that day:
We had on that occasion seen a Henschel 126, a German reconnaissance aircraft. Although our instructions were to patrol just the Channel coastline, we were told
that we could go inland, if we were investigating any aircraft, or for some other reason; in this case we had seen this other aircraft. Paddy Treacy had seen it and I was leading the second section. We must have been somewhere around St Omer, about 15 miles inland.
The Henschel was flying very low and in fact by the time I went into attack it with my section, it was down to about treetop height. It was in flames and just as I pulled away, I saw it crash and go up in a pall of smoke. Anyway, I managed to collect a bullet from somewhere; it may have been a German infantryman or light flack. It may have been from our own troops on the ground, or even the Henschel we’d just shot down. Nevertheless I reformed and intended to go back to base, when Mungo-Park called me up and said I was streaming glycol; so I thought the sensible things to do was what Squadron Leader White had done the previous day and go into Calais-Marck airfield. I knew the previous day that we had sent two ground crew over to the airfield to service his aircraft and repair it. I thought if I can get in here, perhaps they can do a quick patch up and then I can get home. But it didn’t work out that way, and I was too late. At that time the military intelligence just could not keep up with the speed of the German advance westwards. We were not told the disposition of British and French forces nor where the front line was (did anyone know!) and there was never any mention of an evacuation. In fact Calais had been reinforced only the previous day with a British armoured unit. When I landed on the airfield Corporal Higginbottom and Aircraftsman Cressay came out, and were beside the aircraft immediately; I told them what had happened. They saw a hole on the side of the engine cowling; … We found quite a large hole in the pipe leading. … Before I had landed my radiator temperature gauge, my oil temparature and pressure gauges were all registering well above the limits.

With German troops approaching the three men made their escape through the long grass. In a spirited but unsuccessful attempt Douglas and Corporal Higginbottom, (Aircraftsman Cressay had become separated from the two men and was later captured), made their way due north and on two ‘borrowed’ bicycles reached the coast, but they failed in their attempt to get any boat off the sand dunes and on the evening of 25 May, along with French civilians and some British Army officers they were surrounded on the beaches between Calais and Dunkirk by an SS Panzer unit. Douglas explained what happened to him next: ‘We did quite a bit of walking from the beach where I was first captured until reaching Germany in early June. The first organised POW camp I reached was Dulag Luft–III but this was only a transit and interrogation place and I moved a few days later.

For the next four years Douglas was a POW. He spent time in eleven camps including the following, with dates:
Spangenberg – Oflag IXA(H) (RAF Camp), Jun–Jul 40
Barth – Stalag Luft–I, Jul 40–Feb 41
Spangenberg – Oflag IXA(H), Feb–Mar 41
Thorne (Poland) – Stalag Luft–XXA, Mar–May 41
Spangenberg – Oflag IX(H), Jun–Oct 41
Warburg – Oflag VIB, Oct 41–Aug 42
Schubin (Poland) – Oflag XXIB, Aug 42–Apr 43
Sagan – Stalag Luft–III, Apr 43–Aug 44
Gross Tychow – Stalag Luft–IVD, Aug–Sep 44

Further reading:

‘Douglas S Hoare’ by Daniel Kirmatzis in Daniel Kirmatzis and Tony Jones, Emanuel School at War: The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was (2014), pp. 494-498

Richard C. Smith, Hornchurch Scramble: The Definitive Account of the RAF Fighter Airfield, Its Pilots, Groundcrew and Staff, Volume One: 1915 to the End of the Battleof Britain (2002)


RMS Titanic to Dunkirk – From one disaster to another

Just one of the hundreds of stories covered in Emanuel School at War: The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was is Charles Lightoller’s – the most senior surviving officer to survive the sinking of RMS Titantic –  Dunkirk odyssey. During Operation Dynamo Charles saved 130 men from the beaches of Dunkirk. In interviews after the Operation he attributed the safe return of those men in large part to his eldest son Brian Lightoller whho attended Emanuel School 1928-1929. Brian’s name appears on Emanuel’s Second World War memorial. The following is from the book Emanuel School at War:

H B Lightoller

Brian Lightoller

Herbert Brian, known as Brian, Lightoller was the son of Charles Lightoller, the most senior surviving officer of the sinking of the Titanic. Brian was a pilot of a Blenheim
Bomber, serial number N6189, part of 107 Squadron Bomber Command. In the opening salvo of the Second World War, Bomber Command sent out fifteen Blenheims and fourteen Wellington Bombers to attack German warships. Brian’s crew left for Wilhelmshaven, on the afternoon of 4 September in the second wave of bombers, where the German cruiser Emden had been spotted during reconnaissance operations. It is believed that Brian’s crew didn’t get a chance of firing upon the Emden and instead was shot down by anti-aircraft (flak) fire. 107 Squadron lost four of its five planes on the
raid. Brian was among the first British casualties of the Second World War.
At first, details were sketchy and it was hoped that Brian had survived but official German reports were received two months later confirming that Brian and his crew had all been
killed. They were initially buried with full military honours in the Naval Garrison Cemetery in Wilhelmshaven but Brian and his crew were later exhumed and reburied in the British
Military Cemetery at Oldenburg (Sage).

Nine months later on 31 May 1940, Charles Lightoller with his son Roger, left Cubitt’s Yacht Basin in Chiswick for Ramsgate. On his yacht Sundowner they made their way
to Ramsgate. At 10am on 1 June he sailed for Dunkirk. The resulting story of the rescue of 130 men, without loss, from the beaches of Dunkirk is one Charles Lightoller attributed in large part to Brian. The following account by Charles details how young Brian through conversations with his father before he was killed, contributed to saving men of the British
Expeditionary Force.

During the whole embarkation we had quite a lot of attention from enemy planes, but derived an amazing degree of comfort from the fact that the Worcester’s Anti-Aircraft guns kept up an everlasting bark overhead. Casting off and backing out we entered the Roads
again, there it was continuous and unmitigated hell. The troops were just splendid and of
their own initiative detailed look-outs ahead, astern and abeam for inquisitive planes as my
attention was pretty wholly occupied watching the steering and passing orders to Roger at the wheel. Any time an aircraft seemed inclined to try its hand on us, one of the look-outs would just call quietly, “Look out for this bloke, skipper”, at the same time pointing. One bomber that had been particularly offensive, itself came under the notice of one of our fighters and suddenly plunged vertically into the sea just about fifty yards astern of us. It was the only time any man ever raised his voice above a conversational tone, but as that big black bomber hit the water they raised an echoing cheer.
My youngest son, Pilot Officer H. B. Lightoller (lost at the outbreak of war in the first raid on Wilhelmshaven) flew a Blenheim and had at different times given me a whole lot of useful information about attack, defence and evasive tactics (at which he was apparently particularly good) and I attribute, in a great measure, our success in getting across without a single casualty to his unwitting help. On one occasion an enemy machine came astern at about 100 feet with the obvious intention of raking our decks. He was coming down in a gliding dive and I knew that he must elevate some 10 to 15 degrees before his guns would
bear. Telling my son “Stand by”, I waited till as near as I could judge, he was just on the point of pulling up and then “Hard a-port”. (She turns 180 degrees in exactly her
own length). This threw his aim completely off. He banked and tried again. Then “Hard a-starboard”, with the same result. After a third attempt he gave it up in disgust. Had
I had a machine gun of any sort, he was a sitter – in fact there were at least three that I am confident we could have accounted for during the trip.

Late on the evening of 1 June the Sundowner returned to Ramsgate with all 130 men, crew included, safely delivered.

Interestingly, Charles’s second son, Second Lieutenant R. T. Lightoller, had been evacuated from Dunkirk 48 hours previous to Charles arriving.

Listen to Charles Lightoller recount his Dunkirk experiences on the BBC Archive Dunkirk: A Personal Perspective

For more on the Sundowner see Association of Dunkirk Little Ships – Sundowner

VE Day 1945 – Emanuel’s exodus to Petersfield ended

On 8 May 1945 Emanuel’s exodus to Petersfield since 1 September 1939 was nearing its end. The School had spent six long years away from Battersea and in Petersfield as hosts of Churcher’s College. The war in Europe was over and next term they would return to the old building which had been partially bombed during the Blitz. Emanuel were on their way home – (although some boys only ever knew of Emanuel in Petersfield and Tutorial classes had started in the old building in Battersea in 1943 for around 100 boys). The following report was written for the School magazine The Portcullis in the summer term of 1945 about how the boys celebrated Victory in Europe.

‘Our first intimation that the end was so much nearer than we thought was on Sunday, then it was announced by the BBC that Mr Churchill was expected to make his speech announcing the end of the war in Europe before the end of the week, probably on
Thursday, the anniversary of his accession to office five years before. This news caused a considerable stir at Emanuel.

The next day, in break, Younger came out to announce, with a forced calm, that the German radio had stated that the Wehrmacht had accepted unconditional surrender terms. Milk drinking continued as before, but one could not help feeling that this announcement had produced a disturbing effect upon minds which, a few minutes before, had been in a state of scholastic contemplation for the past two periods. In the evening, we hung around the wireless set expecting an official announcement, but our hopes for an official celebration that evening were disappointed, for no such announcement came. There was merely a repetition of the German radio announcement. This, however, was a sufficient excuse for the Windsor Rhythm Kings, who, with the encouragement of a few senior members, proceeded to entertain the local populace in the Square. Dancing proceeded from 8 o’clock until about 10.30, when it began to get dark. During the course of the evening it had been announced that the next day, Tuesday, May 8th, would be VE Day and that the Prime Minister would speak at 3 o’clock.

Emanuel VE Day Petersfield

Emanuel boys celebrating VE Day by climbing the King William III statue in Petersfield Town Square 

The next morning a spirit of gaiety prevailed. An assembly was held at 9.30 outside the pavilion, and we were dismissed for the next two days. The crowd surged out of the gates of Churcher’s and down Ramshill. By the time we had reached the bottom of the High Street, we were strung out across the road, and, arm-in-arm, we marched up the flag-bedecked High Street singing. The march continued round the town and back to the Square, where it broke up, and we all dispersed to our various occupations, the Sixth Form mainly to imbibe coffee.

Emanuel VE Day Petersfield 2

Emanuel boys in Petersfield 8 May 1945

The afternoon saw many Emanuel seniors arrayed in original if somewhat loud costumes, which at times verged on the fancy-dress. Some idea of these may be gathered
from the photographs which were taken by Hardcastle that afternoon and afterwards
printed en masse and sold to the School. The chef d’oeuvre was a snap of the Headmaster standing at the foot of the statue, in the centre of a mob of gesticulating Emanuels, all obviously enjoying themselves immensely.

Petersfield_VE Day

The Headmaster Cyril Broom, centre, with Emanuel boys in Petersfield VE Day 1945

Many of those now at the School will cherish this photograph in after-years as typical of the spirit of Emanuel on VE Day. In the meantime, the equestrian statue of William of Orange had been variously decorated with School ties and scarves, and a certain well-known type of black headgear. The School’s greatest service to Petersfield that day was the re-appearance that evening of the Windsor Rhythm Kings, this time on top of the
shelter in the Square. Lights had been fitted up during the day by Manley, and the band was able to play until midnight. Petersfield’s own official celebrations were not until the following evening, so the band proved a great attraction. A large crowd of people were obviously extremely grateful for its efforts, and £15 was collected for
the Hospital. The crowd danced to its music for over four hours. The band that evening consisted of Younger, Higgs, Sutters, Rassell and Ley, the regular members, augmented by Goodchild and Dudley. To all of them we owe our thanks for an extremely happy time that night. Without the band there could have been no dancing or general jollifications such as took place, and without the School the town would not have been enlivened or amused during the day.’

To the Dardanelles on his birthday

Sheppee F J Portrait

Frederick John Sheppee alias
Frederick Johnson (Emanuel 1885–88)

Frederick Sheppee was one of the earliest pupils at Emanuel School when it moved to Wandsworth Common in the early 1880s. Born in 1873 he later became a labourer and when war broke out in 1914 he was in New Zealand and tried to enlist at the age of 41 but was refused because he was over age. He returned to Australia and enlisted in New South Wales giving the name Frederick Johnson and age 36. He became Private 1371, “C” Company, 2nd Battalion 1st Infantry Brigade, Australian Imperial Forces. He left for Egypt with the second reinforcements and was part of the first landing at the Dardanelles on 25 April 1915 which was also his birthday. He was wounded in the thigh. He spent time recovering from his wound in a hospital in Egypt but returned to duty and was killed in Gallipoli between 7 and 14 August 1915 aged 42. He is commemorated on the Lone Pine memorial.

Frederick was not included on Emanuel’s original First World War memorial but in November 2014 his name was included on 5 new memorial boards to commemorate those Old Emanuels who lost their lives in the War but who were unknown to the School at the time.

New Memorial Board 2014

If you have any further information about Frederick or maybe you are a relative we would like to hear from you so we can complete our story of Frederick.

‘The Great Trek’ – one man’s journey to retrace his uncle’s footsteps

Finlay, D W131

Douglas Finlay DFC 103 Squadron Bomber Command.

In The Telegraph Magazine ( on Saturday 25 April 2015, photographer James Finlay is interviewed about his new project which finds him retracing his uncle’s footsteps during the winter of 1945 when thousands of Allied POWs were forced to march west by their German captors as the Soviet forces pushed forward into Germany. James’s uncle Douglas Finlay was Captain of Emanuel School in 1940.

Finlay, D W_38

Douglas Finlay in Emanuel OTC uniform 1938.

He served in 103 Squadron Bomber Command and was awarded the DFC. Douglas was made a POW after his aircraft was shot down over Germany in September 1943.

Finlay, D W POW Log Book Map of where men landed

A map from Douglas’s POW Log Book showing where he and fellow POWs landed after either being shot down or crashing in Nazi occupied Europe.

He was imprisoned in Stalag Luft-III, the famous ‘Great Escape’ camp until 27 January 1945 when he, with 10,000 fellow POWs were forced to march west during a bitterly cold winter.  His story is retold in Emanuel School at War: The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was pp. 499-505 (available to buy from Emanuel School, Troubador or Amazon for £30) James is photographing what is left of the route the POWs followed.

Finlay, D W140

Douglas Finlay (first from right) in room 6 Block 123, Stalag Luft-III.

Boxing Day 1944 – In memory of Bill Page

Bill Page at Emanuel001

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 and Emanuel boys on Emanuel cricket field001

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 East Surrey Regiment uniform

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.

Bill Page Royal Fusilier

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 Grave

Bill Page’s grave in Forli War Cemetery


Bill’s brother Eddie and his wife at Bill’s grave in the 1990s

BBC World War One at Home – Emanuel School

Emanuel School’s World War One story is now part of the BBC World War One at Home series. It covers the story of the Grundy brothers and the origins of the School song which can be heard on the piece.

Book photo

Click here to listen