Peter Reder


The principal source for the names of old boys of the School who lost their lives in the Second World War is a list appended to Richard Brock’s (1985) ‘History of the Kilburn Grammar School 1897-1967’. A secondary source is a remarkable handwritten document by Cliff Symes, who followed the lives of old boys serving in the armed forces and also kept newspaper cuttings reporting their war experiences (both of these are available on the Association’s website). Further research was possible through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission data base and genealogy sites, such as ‘Ancestry’, together with the history of squadrons that can be found on the web and at the National Archives. The School’s archives, held in Willesden Library, allowed most of the men’s identity to be confirmed through admission records and entries in The Kilburnian magazine.

The supplementary sources were invaluable, especially as the original list only gave the men’s initials. If there was any doubt about having found the right person, their family address within the school’s catchment area was taken as an informed guide. No ‘P Jones’ could be identified although it is possible that this may be a variant reference to Peter Champion-Jones. However, if any mistaken identity has occurred then apologies are offered to the memory of the men. Photographs (of variable quality) of some of the men were found in web entries, Cliff Symes newspaper cuttings and old editions of The Kilburnian.

Ultimately, it was possible to identify and trace the personal lives and fate of sixty seven alumni of the school. The one master, who fell, Alan Stuart, is also included here.

As in the first war, the men were young, mostly in their early twenties; eight were aged 18 or 19, including Sidney Harcourt who lost his life just three days after his eighteenth birthday. Many had left the School only a few years before the war’s onset. Conrad Barnett, Herbert Moore, Harold Sanders, Arthur Sidey and Royston Uridge were their parents’ only son (there may have been others, but it is not yet possible to research family composition beyond the 1911 census). At least two of the families also lost another son in the war. Fourteen of the men were known to be married and Denis Flanagan and Cecil Hawksworth each had two young children, while Arthur Sidey was the father of a son.

Their working lives prior to enlistment were often as a clerk, although Norman Bridges and Ronald Shrubb were qualified accountants, Gordon Edworthy and Harold Morrish were police officers and Cecil Hawksworth a chaplain. Military service had been the career choices of Peter Champion-Jones and Philip Pinkham (in the RAF), George Ormerod and Maxwell Sandley (in the army) and Harold Sanders (in the Royal Navy).

Nearly two thirds of the men had fought the war as airmen, mostly in Bomber Command, and had lost their lives during bombing raids over Europe (it is said that 51% of bomber aircrew were killed in operations over the course of the war). Others had served in Coastal Command, escorting convoys and conducting air-sea rescues. Of those in Fighter Command, Francis Bassett had survived the Battle of Britain but Philip Pinkham was shot down at the height of the Battle. Unfortunately, less information is available about the wartime experiences of those serving in land forces, but they include four in the Royal Corps of Signals, four in Armoured Divisions and three in the Royal Artillery. Five of the men served in the Royal Navy.

The most senior ranked in the RAF were Squadron Leaders Kenneth Clack and Philip Pinkham, in the Royal Navy was Lieutenant-Commander Harold Sanders and amongst the land forces was Major Alan Stuart. Six of the men had been decorated. Kenneth Clack was awarded the DFC and Philip Pinkham the AFC; posthumous recognition was given to Max Gerard (King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct and Lloyd’s War Medal for Bravery at Sea), Harold Morrish (DFC), Harold Sanders (DSO, DSC and RD) and Anthony Wray (DSC). Cecil Hawksworth had been ‘Mentioned in Despatches’.

Fifteen of the airmen did not die as a direct result of enemy action but in flying accidents, during take-off or landing or while on training exercises. For example, Andrew Moore’s aeroplane was accidentally shot down by a Norwegian steamer and Sidney Harcourt was the Wireless Operator / Gunner in a Liberator that crashed into the sea while conducting a low level turn. The engine of Francis Bassett’s Spitfire caught fire and although he successfully ejected into the sea he could not be found by search aircraft. He had survived two previous flying accidents. Elsewhere, Reginald Cooley was killed by an internal explosion on his aircraft carrier.  Motorcycle accidents claimed the lives of Walter Layton and Cecil Hawksworth. Norman Bridges died of enteric fever as a prisoner of war and Reginald Stringer died in hospital of septicaemia and pneumonia. George Ormerod was a prisoner of war and was officially recorded as having been killed by a moving train but it is believed that he was shot after a failed escape attempt.

Twenty three of the men are buried in Commonwealth War Graves in northern Europe, four in Italy and four in the Middle or Far East. Fifteen lie in cemeteries on home soil but twenty two have no known grave or their bodies were not recovered and they are commemorated on memorials either close to where they fell or in this country.

It is very humbling to discover that a school’s roll of honour reflects many of the critical phases of the war: the evacuation towards Dunkirk; the Battle of Britain; the blitz; the Battle of the Atlantic; retreat in the Far East; the Desert Rats’ defeat of Rommel in North Africa; the invasion of Italy; the bombing campaign over Germany (and the dreadful losses among bomber crews); the Normandy landings; and the liberation of France and the Low Countries. Of course, the ultimate tragedy is that none of the men lived to see VE Day.