Dunkirk posterThe 21 July 2017 sees the UK release of Christopher Nolan’s film, Dunkirk, starring Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance and Harry Styles.

Watch the Warner Bros. official trailer on youtube.

Between the 27 May and 4 June 1940, 338,226 British and allied soldiers were evacuated during ‘Operation Dynamo’ from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk.

However, 68,111 men of the British Expeditionary Forces (BEF) were captured or killed during the Blitzkrieg, retreat and evacuation, amongst those who did not survive were five Shirburnians.  These are their stories.

George Campbell Adair Roche (1918-1940)

The youngest Shirburnian known to have died at Dunkirk was 21-year-old George Campbell Adair Roche (1918-1940).  Born in Yorkshire in December 1918, George came to Sherborne School in September 1932 and was a member of Abbey House.  In 1937, he went up to Pembroke College, Cambridge.  A Second Lieutenant in the 4th Bn., The Green Howards, he died of wounds near Dunkirk on 31 May 1940.  He was buried in Dunkirk Town Cemetery and is commemorated at Hutton Rudby in Yorkshire and at Sherborne School.

Oliver George Woodhouse (1901-1940)The oldest Shirburnian known to have died at Dunkirk was 39-year-old Oliver George Woodhouse (1901-1940).  Oliver was born into the well-known Dorset brewing family in June 1901.  He attended Sherborne School from May 1915 to December 1919 and was a member of School House.  A career soldier, he attended Sandhurst and when the Second World War broke out he was a Major in the Royal West Kent Regiment and, though he should have stayed on the Staff, he moved heaven and earth to get back to his regiment. He was killed in action on 29 May 1940 during the evacuation from Dunkirk. He was buried at Lille Southern Cemetery.  On his gravestone are inscribed the words ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’  He is also commemorated at Sherborne School.

Christopher Melfort Baldwin (1905-1940)Christopher Melfort Baldwin (1905-1940) was born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on 27 December 1905, the son of a Major in the Indian Army.  He attended  Sherborne School from May 1920 to July 1924 and was a member of Lyon House.  After leaving Sherborne he went on to Sandhurst and on passing out was posted to the Middlesex Regiment and was serving with it as Major at the time of his death.  He was hit by shrapnel and was put into a lorry but the road was so blocked that it could not proceed.  It was later presumed that he had died from his wounds on 1 June 1940 at La Bonne, Dunkirk, aged 34. He was buried at De Panne Communal Cemetery in Belgium where his headstone bears the inscription ‘Their spirit must be our banner, their sacrifice, our spur’.  He is commemorated at Sherborne School.

Graham Watt (1916-1940)The two other Shirburnian known to have died at Dunkirk were both aged 23.  Graham Watt (1916-1940) was born in Surrey in July 1916.  He attended Sherborne School from January 1930 to December 1934 and was a member of School House.  Having gone into the Insurance business, he served in the Second World War as a Second Lieutenant in the South Lancashire Regiment and was killed in action at Dunkirk on 1 June 1940. He was buried at De Panne Communal Cemetery in Belgium and is commemorated at Sherborne School.

Thomas Hastings Rouse (1916-1940)Trevor Hastings Rouse (1916-1940) was born in Hertfordshire in June 1916.  He came to Sherborne School in September 1929 and was a member of Lyon House.  After leaving Sherborne in December 1934 he went up to Queens’ College, Cambridge.  A Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, he was killed at Dunkirk on 1 June 1940.  Having got hold of a motorboat at Dunkirk whose engine had broken down, Trevor rowed it back and forth getting the men off the beach.  On 1 June 1940, they received a command saying they were to embark at dawn on the minesweeper HMS Skipjack.  Once onboard, Trevor (with his little dog) made his way to the engine room to dry out his clothes.  When the minesweeper was off La Panne she was subjected to repeated air attacks and at 08.49am she received a direct hit and turned turtle, remaining afloat for about 20 minutes before sinking.  The majority of the troops were trapped in the hull, but survivors in the water were attacked by enemy aircraft.  In total, nineteen members of the crew and 275 troops were killed.  Trevor is commemorated on the Dunkirk Memorial at the entrance to the British War Graves section of Dunkirk Town Cemetery, on the Sevenoaks War Memorial at Tubs Hill, and at Sherborne School.

We will remember them.

Rachel Hassall
School Archivist

See also:
Sherborne School Roll of Honour.
The Story of Firefly, one of the ‘Little Ships of Dunkirk’
Online resources for Sherborne School and the Second World War

Visit Sherborne School Archive News for more stories from the archives.

Posted 20 July 2017 by Sherborne School Archives.

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