News for Emanuel School at War Exhibition

The Emanuel School at War Exhibition is now over but it will live on in the memories of those who were there. A big thank you to everyone who attended and supported the exhibition.

A more detailed blog post will follow but here are a few news stories from the 5 day exhibition.

Listen to Daniel Kirmatzis discussing the Emanuel at War Project on the Robert Elms show BBC Radio London from 30mins in

Also see London Live who recorded current Emanuel pupils’s impressions of the Exhibition

We have had many lovely comments from people who visited the Exhibition including Dr Andrew Murrison, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office and the Prime Minister’s special representative for the Centenary Commemoration of the First World War whose tweet can be seen below.

Emanuel at War Exhibition10 Nov 2014


Free Emanuel School at War Exhibition Talks


As part of the Emanuel School at War Exhibition we are holding a series of 5 talks on Saturday 8 November at Emanuel School from 10.30am to 1.00pm. To register your free place please email Registration for places closes on Wednesday 5 November. Please see the Exhibition Talks poster for further details.

Speaker Biographies:

Stephen Cooper
Stephen Cooper: A former Emanuel School parent Stephen Cooper is the award winning author of The Final Whistle: the Great War in Fifteen Players – the story of fifteen men killed in the Great War who played rugby for Rosslyn Park. The story has featured on the BBC World War One at Home Series and was winner of Rugby Book of Year at The Times British Sports Book Awards 2013.

Jeremy Archer
Jeremy Archer: A former Emanuel School parent, Jeremy Archer served with The Devonshire and Dorset Regiment for ten years, before spending the rest of his working life in the City of London. A Trustee of a number of military charities – including The Rifles and The Burma Star Association – he is an enthusiastic military historian. Having been a member of the editorial committee for The Devonshire and Dorset Regiment 1958-2007, published by Pen & Sword in 2007, he has since written a number of books including Home for Christmas, published by Century (Random House) in 2007; The Old West Country Regiments, published by Pen & Sword in 2011; and A Military Miscellany, published by Elliott & Thompson in 2013. He writes occasional articles for a variety of publications, including Stand To! (the Journal of the Western Front Association), The Dorset Year Book and The British Army Review.

Gene Meieran
Gene Meieran: Gene joined Gordon Moore in 1963, heading materials analysis labs. In 1973 he started a career at Intel where he held a number of technical and managerial positions. He was named Intel’s second Fellow in 1984 and retired from Intel in 2009 as Senior Fellow, the highest technical position at Intel. Gene was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2000 and was given an Honorary Doctorate to Purdue in 2004, and Fellow of Mineralogical Record in 2014. He is on several national committees (National Research Council, Committee on Competitiveness) and has served on several University Boards (New Mexico, University of Alberta, Purdue University, UC Berkeley). Gene has authored about 60 technical papers, won three international awards for technology, and is now very active in the mineral collecting/mineral preservation environment, helping many museums improve their collections.

Doug Goodman
Doug Goodman: Doug runs a PR company specialising in Travel. This year he has organised four visits to France and Belgium for press to Commemorate the Centenary of the First World War. His interest is in The Somme Battlefields and the 15th September 1916 battle for High Wood. During the past 20 years he has written many articles and contributed to five books on the First World War. His talk, illustrated with war memorabilia, will cover the life and military career of a private in The Prince of Wales Own Civil Service Rifles.

John Lewis Stempel2
John Lewis Stempel: John Lewis-Stempel is a writer predominantly known for his books on nature and history. His many books include the best-selling Six Weeks: The Short and Gallant Life of the British Officer in the First World War, Fatherhood: The Anthology, England: The Autobiography, The Autobiography of the British Soldier (Sunday Express ‘5 stars’) and The Wild Life (Sunday Telegraph ‘Timely and Compelling’) and Foraging: The Essential Guide to Free Wild Food. His books have been published in languages as diverse as Brazilian Portuguese and Japanese and have sold more than a million copies. He has two degrees in history and writes books under the pen name Jon E. Lewis.

Free Exhibition – Emanuel School at War – November 2014

Emanuel School is hosting a free public exhibition on the experiences of Emanuel School boys in two world wars. The Exhibition showcases original First World War letters, photos and documents from Emanuel boys fighting in the trenches, in the air and on the sea. Learn about the evacuation of the School to Petersfield in the Second World War and read first hand accounts of some of the major battles and incidents of the Second World War including the Battle of Britain, the landings at Salerno in September 1943 and D-Day. For the first time in public we will be showing the Second World War colour films of wartime entertainer Leslie Henson including sequences of Lord Louis Mountbatten and Prince Phillip.

For Exhibition times please see the poster.

We look forward to welcoming you to the Exhibition in November.


Emanuel School at War: A History


After 5 years of research the new history of Emanuel School at War will be published in November 2014. [639pp and fully illustrated].

This is the story of a school at war – the boys and masters who fought on every battlefront. It’s Emanuel’s hidden history – stories locked away in archives for decades. Now much of this is published here for the first time. These voices from the past reveal the contrast between a world at peace and a world at war. The experiences of Emanuel boys, from 1914 to the Liberation of Europe in 1945, are vividly brought to life in their own words – through letters, diaries, documents and interviews. Many never returned. Those who did never forgot them.


This is an exceptionally moving and well-researched book to commemorate the centenary of the Great War. Richly illustrated throughout and with illuminating biographies of members of the Emanuel School community in two world wars, it offers a unique tribute to the service and sacrifice of these generations. This book is a fitting memorial to the lost generation, and a wake-up call to the young of today to seek to emulate the courage and service or duty of those who attended school a hundred years ago.
Sir Anthony Seldon Master, Wellington College

A truly fascinating and beautifully produced book which weaves diligent research and historical detail with the personal First- and Second-World-War stories of boys and teachers and thereby brings our history and our story to life. This is such a worthwhile and poignant tribute to those who went before us.
Jeremy Trevathan Publisher, Macmillan

Emanuel School has a rich history and has produced some remarkable characters who more than played their part in Britain’s two
world wars, and who repeatedly showed astonishing ingenuity, fortitude and bare-faced courage during these periods of national peril. From sailors to soldiers, to fighter-, bomber- and reconnaissance-pilots, as well as renowned entertainers, translators and war artists. Emanuel’s old boys served in almost every theatre from the Western Front in the First World War to the Atlantic and the Far East in the Second. They took part in the Battle of Britain, the air campaign against Germany and in the battles for North Africa and Italy and landed on the beaches in Normandy on D-Day. This is a superb book, beautifully written and illustrated, and a lasting testimony to the heroic contributions of these exceptional men.
James Holland Author and Historian

Emanuel School’s First World War Pro Patria

On the eve of the 100th anniversary of Britain’s entry into the First World War we are publishing Emanuel School’s updated First World War Pro Patria.

As part of the Emanuel School at War project it was decided to update the School’s First and Second World War Pro Patrias. This has been a fourteen-month project. There were several versions of the original First World War Pro Patria. Using the School’s original pupil index cards, School register and a host of other sources it has been possible in most cases to determine the full names and School dates of many of those who were originally listed by surname and initials. Through meticulous research it has been possible to add new names to the list. The original records contained a large number of mistakes and so we have been working from imperfect data. While many inconsistencies have been corrected there remain a number of queries that at the present time are not possible to answer.

The updated Pro Patria lists the names, ranks, regiments, and awards of over 900 former pupils and masters of Emanuel School who served in the First World War. It indicates all those who lost their lives as a consequence of the war and gives dates of birth and death of individuals if known. It also indicates those who were made POWs and provides extra details such as those who were invalided out.

If you recognise any of the names on the Pro Patria we would be interested in hearing from you. Please contact us via the contact tab at the top of the page.

Pro Patria is currently being updated. Please revisit soon.

D-DAY 70: In Memoriam – Robert Edwin Fielder (Emanuel 1935-1941)

Friday June 6, 2014 marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day. On that day in 1944 tens of Old Emanuels (OE) took part in the largest amphibious invasion in history to free Western Europe from Nazi domination. 70 years later we remember the actions of the only OE to lose his life on that fateful June day.

Fielder aged 18

Robert aged 18

Robert Fielder came to Emanuel from Holden Street Boys’ School in 1935. A talented musician he played the violin. Robert was also a member of Emanuel’s Officers’ Training Corps. On leaving Emanuel he trained as a chartered accountant before being called up at the age of eighteen. He joined the Royal Army Service Corps (R.A.S.C.). Normally four companies of the R.A.S.C. supported a Division by keeping it supplied with ammunition, petrol and rations.

Robert was transferred to 716 Company (Airborne Light) which in 1943 became part of the 6th Airborne Division. It was soon designated for special operations in connection with Operation Overlord – the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. It wasn’t until the spring of 1944 that the commanders of the Airborne Division were given the code word Overlord. Lower ranks would have been kept in the dark until much nearer the time of the invasion.

Robert was in No. 1 Parachute Platoon 716 Airborne which jumped with the 5th Parachute Brigade. Robert had passed the required eight jumps in order to qualify for airborne operations.

Robert Edwin Fielder

Private Fielder 14384200

On May 30 1944, Robert wrote to his sister Margaret:

By the way, if and when the second front does start, will you please save me the morning papers for me for the first fortnight or so and when you write again please send a couple of Penguin books, not too blood-thirsty.

We were inspected last week by the King and Queen and Princess Elizabeth…They looked like what I expected except Princess Elizabeth who was smaller than she seems to be in photographs.

I’m afraid that leave is out of the question for some time yet. I think however that it will be sooner than you will expect.

In the early hours of June 6 No. 1 platoon took off in a Stirling aircraft from R.A.F. Keevil. 5th Parachute Brigade’s objective that day was to support Major Howard’s Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry glider-borne assault team who were tasked with the capture of the Bénouville and Ranville Bridges which crossed the Caen Canal and the River Orne. 5th Parachute Brigade was also tasked with clearing German anti-airborne defences. Members of 716 Company R.A.S.C. were tasked with gathering the various supplies being dropped by bombers and transport aircraft and distributing them to the fighting units.

However, on that fateful dark morning as Robert descended over Ranville his parachute caught on telephone wires. As he hung on the wall of the Chateau below he was shot by German troops. A French Countess recovered Robert’s body and covered him with a shroud, an act for which she was later awarded the Croix de Guerre, a French military decoration. Robert was later buried in Ranville War Cemetery. Robert was only 19 years old when he was killed on D-Day. As the sun sets over Normandy on Friday June 6, 2014, this brave young man and his family will be in our thoughts.

Fielder grave with cross

An early photo of Robert’s grave in Ranville

Montgomery with Fielder mum and sister

Robert’s mother and sister meeting Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery in Normandy in the late 1940s.

The Mulberry Harbours: In commemoration of the 70th anniversary of D-Day

Weatherley (5)

Images Copyright Wates Ltd.

The 6th June 2014 will mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day. It will be a time to remember the significant contribution three Old Emanuel brothers, Allan Charles Wates (Emanuel 1919-1927) Norman Edward Wates (Emanuel 1917-1921) and Sir Ronald Wallace Wates (Emanuel 1917-1923) played in the construction of the Mulberry Harbours.

The Wates family have had an association with Emanuel for almost a century. Three brothers Allan, Norman and Ronald all attended the School between 1917 and 1927. The boys’ father and uncle started building light, compactly built houses to replace uncomfortable Victorian houses in the early 1900s and by 1926 Norman had joined his father and uncle in the business. Two to three years later Allan and Ronald also joined the Company which by the 1930s had moved from Streatham to London Road, Mitcham and then to Norbury. By the 1930s Wates Ltd. was firmly on the map and in the 21st century Wates Ltd. still flourishes as one of the largest construction companies in the UK.

Up to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 the Company was constructing around 2000 houses per year. The Company’s Contract Department was inaugurated under the direction of Allan Wates in 1936 allowing it to expand its business, initially securing deals for the building of fire stations, drill halls, libraries and a variety of public works. These included Kingston Drill Hall and Sutton Library.

The Munich Crisis of 1938 did little to assuage those who firmly believed Czechoslovakia would not be the last in Hitler’s territorial ambitions and so by late 1938 Britain was preparing itself for a potential European conflict. At this time Wates Ltd. secured contracts from the War Office to erect camps and defence works in southern England. In collaboration with consulting engineers they also produced the designs and put into production precast concrete air raid shelters and trench linings in early 1939 including for the whole of the borough of Battersea. The Company also supported its staff in any National Service they wished to undertake including providing an extra week’s paid holiday to staff who were Territorials (reserve soldiers). Once the war began they also provided pre-cast floor slabs for a London tube station which was converted into a shelter.

At the outbreak of war the Company was handling over one hundred contracts for the War Office. At this difficult time Wates Ltd. moved to reassure its employees, “Each of us will find inconveniences, difficulties and hardships, but will tackle them cheerfully in the knowledge that each one overcome is a contribution to the national effort.”

In October 1939 the War Office wrote to the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors with a request for one hundred steel fixers and one hundred carpenters for urgent work overseas. The men were to be enlisted into a Corps of the Royal Engineers. At this time Wates Ltd. decided to offer their services to the War Office by forming the Wates Royal Engineers General Construction Company. This was later designated as 687 Company, Royal Engineers.

The Mulberry Harbours

Perhaps the most important project in the Wates Company’s history was the contract they took on for building components of the pre-fabricated harbour, code-named Mulberry, which assisted the supply of goods and military equipment in the wake of the Allied invasion of France in June 1944. Eventually two harbours were established, Mulberry A, to support the beaches on which US troops landed and Mulberry B at Arromanches, in the British invasion area. Mulberry A was largely destroyed in a powerful storm on the 19th to the 20th of June 1944.

Allied planners understood early in the war that once their forces landed in any planned invasion of the French coast they would need to be supplied with reinforcements. The disastrous results of the Dieppe Raid of 1942 led to a rethink of how the Allied forces could launch and carry out an amphibious assault of the French mainland. Their main obstacle was the lack of harbours along the stretch of coast that they eventually designated for the operation, known from 1943 as Overlord. The solution to this problem required the best engineering minds available.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill wrote a memorandum headed, ‘Piers for Use On Beaches’, to Lord Mountbatten, the Chief of Combined Operations, on the 30th of May 1942, “They must float up and down with the tide. The anchor problem must be mastered. Let me have the best solution worked out. Don’t argue the matter. The difficulties will argue for themselves.” With this order a team of engineers were called upon to work out ways in which this could be achieved.

Between 1943 and June 1944 Wates Ltd. became one of a number of companies which set about putting the idea of an artificial harbour into reality. Wates Ltd. carried out their work on the Mulberry components at yards and docks across the country including at Goat Road in Mitcham and the West India Docks.

Weatherley (6)

At one of the construction sites where Mulberry components were built. Copyright Wates Ltd.

Essentially the harbours consisted of a line of floating breakwaters three miles out from the coast and inside them, sunken concrete breakwaters. Connecting these to shore were floating pontoons and bridges. Hundreds of thousands of men and women of the Allied forces landed at the harbour in Arromaches as supplies were delivered to Allied forces as they set upon driving German forces out of France and the Low Countries. The historian Max Hastings raised doubts in his book, Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy 1944, whether the huge costs and man-power in constructing the Mulberries was commensurate with the results delivered i.e. Hastings and other researchers questioned if a smaller scale operation would have delivered similar results and more efficiently than ended up being the case with the problems which beset the Mulberries once established. But there is no doubt that the indefatigable energy of the Wates brothers and their workforce was of the highest order when one considers the huge scale of the operation, which ultimately played no small part in supporting the Allied advance, despite the difficulties it faced.

Mulberry (36)

Wates employees who worked on the Mulberry Harbour, with Allan, Norman and Ronald Wates Copyright Wates Ltd.

The following is the story of the Wates’ contribution to the Mulberry Harbour as retold in the Wates News Sheet in November 1944:

In recent weeks the story of the Prefabricated Port of Arromanches has been told and it is now possible for us as a Company to speak of the not inconsiderable part which we have played. Our connection started a very long time ago-back in the spring of 1942. Just previous to this Sir James Lithgow, the Controller of Merchant Shipbuilding, had asked us to help the Army with our experience of concrete barge building to solve some transport and constructional problems which were arising in Egypt and Persia. This put us in touch with the appropriate division of the War Office and from that time onwards we were always called upon to co-operate with them in some of the many problems with which they were grappling. We were able to be helpful in many ways-providing from Barrow floating crane pontoons and motor transport ferries and from London the beach landing mats from which and upon which, so many great operations took place-Dieppe, North Africa and Normandy. These, however, were sidelines compared with the main long term problem which faced the War Office-that of providing the means of landing on the continental shore the millions of tons of heavy equipment required for the invasion of Europe. Looking back now, it is seen that the War Office seemed always to have had in mind just the sort of conditions found at Arromanches-long flat sloping beaches which are so suitable in many ways for tank landing craft, but so unsuitable for larger ships and even coasters. To make these beaches more useful to all sorts of ships, it was necessary to construct the means of landing vehicles and other equipment from ships lying in deep water which might be nearly a mile from the shore. Many schemes were thought of in 1942 and several experiments made. The scheme which was ultimately to prove successful-the War Office scheme-was the one for which we were asked to provide the pontoons. This was a pier scheme embodying flexible steel spans supported on our reinforced concrete floats. Like all the other details of the proposal, the mere statement “reinforced concrete floats” conveys little of the complexity of the problem. These floats had the most difficult design conditions imaginable. They must be light, yet strong enough to support the weight of spans and tanks when aground. They must be of shallow draught. They could not be too beamy, otherwise they would foul the bridge in rough weather. It would be useful if they could tow as well broadside as bows on-and many other considerations. The responsibility for the reinforced concrete design was taken by Messrs. L. G. Mouchel and Partners, with whom we collaborated in order to ensure that the design should be as straightforward in production as possible, having regard to the complexity of the conditions.

These were built at Barrow in conditions of great secrecy in the autumn of 1942 and delivered to a place in Scotland where the first experimental pier was built in the early part of 1943, It must be remembered that all this was going on when the U-Boat menace was at its height and the nation’s whole shipbuilding resources were taxed to the uttermost and it is because of that fact that reinforced concrete was the material chosen, instead of steel, for the floating parts.

This pier was a great success from the outset and films of its performance were taken to Ottawa for the Prime Minister’s conference in August 1943, where the final invasion plans were decided upon. There it was decided that whilst the pier scheme was to go ahead up to ten miles, there should also be about five miles of breakwaters constructed partly to protect the piers and partly to provide protection to the beaches.

Upon the War Office experts’ return with this vast commitment-all to be completed in about five months-Brigadier Sir Bruce White, the Director of Ports and Inland Water Transport, set up two committees to give him certain advice concerning the breakwater scheme. The first was composed of many eminent engineers who were concerned with design. The second consisted of three contractors, Sir Malcolm McAlpine, Mr. Storey Wilson of Holloway Bros., and Mr. Norman Wates, whose job it was to say which designs were easiest to construct, what facilities and labour forces were required and how long the job would take. In less than a fortnight of continuous and intensive work by both committees, the report was submitted and the Ministry of Supply embarked upon their gigantic task.

The responsibilities with which we were entrusted were indeed heavy. Failure in quality or delivery in any of the various items would have had catastrophic results for the invasion. As an example, if our mooring shuttles had not been anchored in time. In all our production this was fully realised by everyone concerned and planning and production went ahead with a very keen sense of the momentousness of the task upon which we were engaged.

The Company’s commitment consisted of the provision of all the pier pontoons, some 450 in all, 12 pierhead pontoons, 500 shuttles or mooring vessels and proto-type S.L.U.G. boats. The work was carried out at West India Docks, Southsea, Marchwood, Beaulieu, Balham, Bedfont, Willow Lane and the Goat Yard. Barrow, on geographical grounds, was ruled out, but the pioneer work they did was of inestimable service. Despite the magnitude of the task we can say with pride that in point of time and quality, economy of labour and construction generally, we reached complete success in all the various craft.