Wartime Captivity

An occupational hazard of military service in the second world war, especially in the opening salvos, was the well-documented speed and superiority of the Axis forces. It is inevitable then that with the representation of the Lodge and OWs in general in the standing army that some of them would be caught up in the melee. We rightfully remember those that made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, but here the Lodge would like to pay tribute to those that fought and were captured.

Lord Rathcreedan, who would go on to be Worshipful Master of the Lodge in 1959, was a territorial officer with the 4th Ox & Bucks that formed part of 145th  Brigade of the BEF in 1939. He was captured as part of the unit’s heroic defence of Mount Cassel, making time for the evacuation of Dunkirk, and furthermore defending their positions to allow the rest of the formation to attempt a breakout. He was a PoW for the remainder of the war.

Duggald Bannatyne  was Worshipful Master in 1954 and served with the Camerons at the fall of Tobruk. A Royal Artillery officer was witness to the arrival of 2nd Camerons to the POW cage:

“We heard, although we could scarcely believe it, the skirl of pipes. There, in the brilliant sunshine, marching down the centre of the road from the escarpment, came a long column of men. The Jerry traffic was brought to a standstill or forced on to the verges. A strange awed murmur went up from the cage: “The Camerons!”

In columns of threes they marched with a swing to the tune of their pipers – ‘The March of The Cameron Men’ – each company led by its company commander, just as though they were on parade. It was a supremely moving sight, although some of us could only see it hazily through our tears.

Even the Jerry sentries sprang to attention as the battalion neared the gates. There, the Camerons halted. Their Colonel reported to the Brigadier, saluted, and dismissed his men, who had held out for twenty-four hours after the surrender order had been issued.”

 

Henry Lowe Sherbrooke joined the Lodge in 1986, some years after his wartime service with the  Queen’s Bays. He had been in the Benson and was made Head of College in 1938. He also made the Racquets Pair, and both the Hockey and Cricket XIs, before going up to Trinity Oxford. He was the 250th member of the Lodge when he joined. Unusually his mother lodge was Prince of Wales Lodge No 19 in Santiago, Chile (which still meets).  He was captured in the ‘Cauldron’ near El Alamein on 30 June 1942 during “a successful attack on an enemy column of 3,000 vehicles, until a covering force of twenty-three panzer IIIs and IVs came forward, knocking out Lieutenant Sherbrooke’s tank and capturing him and his crew”.1

An interesting side note is that both Sherbrooke and Bannatyne ended up in at Oflag VIII, and both were somehow able to telegram Speech Day congratulations to Wellington from behind the wire:

Speech Day Telegrams from PoWs. Courtesy of Wellington College Archive

Lt Col Richard Gilbert ‘Reggie’ Lees was in the Wellesley from 1912, and was a Dormitory Prefect and in the XI. He went to Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Gordons. He was in command of the 2nd Battalion when it was posted to Fortress Singapore. With the Fall of Singapore he spent the rest of the war as a Japanese PoW working on the infamous Burma Railway, where he acquitted himself well and looked after his men the best he could. He is much remembered for his leadership in camp, and became the inspiration for the Colonel in the McAuslan novels.

Francis Ian Hamilton-Moore was another guest of the Japanese, having served in the Federated Malay States volunteer Infantry and being present at the fall of Singapore. He was Master in 1952.

Brigadier Lionel Frederick RobertFreddy’ Kenyon DSO was initiated into the Lodge in 1922 and remained with us for 58 years. A Royal Engineers officer who was a dormitory prefect in the Combermere before going to Woolwich in 1918. Having missed the end of the Great War he saw service in Waziristan in 1922-1923 and again on the Khajuri Plain in 1930-1931, and was Mentioned for both campaigns. After several World War Two staff jobs he found himself in 1943 at the sharp end of soldiering once more. After being unsuccessful in an attempt to persuade the newly Allied Italian forces on Rhodes and the Italian commander of the Dodecanese to resist the Germans, and following the capitulation fo 35-40,000 Italians to less than 7000 Germans, he became the overall force commander of the Kos Invasion force. He was captured in the swift German retaking of the Island which was met by scant resistance from demoralised Italian troops. What followed ranks as its own distinct chapter of the crimes committed by the Germans, with mass shooting of Italian PoWs. Kenyon was spared this fate, and remained in captivity until liberation.2

 

  1. History of the Queens Dragoon Guards
  2. THE EVENTS ON KOS IN OCTOBER 1943 P Liuzzi. http://www.academia.edu/13231745/THE_EVENTS_ON_KOS_IN_OCTOBER_1943