Research undertaken during the centenary commemorations of the First World War revealed that a number of Old Oakhamians have been omitted from the list of those known to have been Killed-in-Action, Died-of-Wounds, Killed-on-Active Service, died from injuries, illness sometime after the Armistice from injuries, or illness suffered while serving in His Majesty’s Forces. Such errors and omissions were not intentional of course, and a quick glance at the list of names engraved on the Memorial Chapel or on the School House Screens shows that corrections have been made in the past.
Very recent research into Old Oakhamians who fought in the Second World War has revealed one new name to add to the recorded list…
Colin Reeves – at Oakham 1933-34
Colin was born 30th March 1921 in Cleethorpes and was the only child of Frank, a gardener, and Minnie (née Boyers). He joined Oakham School from Kettering Grammar School in 1933 but after just a year he migrated to The King’s School, Peterborough. At Kings, Colin was an active member of school life becoming a Prefect and Head of House. He was additionally a member of the Rugby XV (wing three-quarter) as well as treading the boards as Bertrand de Poulengey in the 1936 school production of Saint Joan. On 03/04/1936, the Peterborough Standard printed a review of the play, in which they described Colin’s performance as being a “quiet, convinced character”. The following year he was cast as Albert in the one-act thriller A Night at an Inn.
In July 1936, he passed his Oxford School Certificate with credits in English, Religious Knowledge, English and European History, French, Mathematics and Art.
Colin left school in 1937 and entered the insurance career as a broker’s clerk. He also worked for The Century Insurance Company of London.
Colin served in the Second World War as an Aircraftsman in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR - Regimental Number 1441963). He enlisted in 1941 and was posted to the Far East in the December of that year. A casualty card in the RAF Air Historical Branch shows us that Colin was an Armourer – his key duties being to keep aircraft services and supplied. Life as a soldier in the Far East was, however, about to change. The Japanese entered the war with their bombardment on Pearl Harbour in December 1941 and soon began to set their sights on the British held territory of Singapore. With the speed of their attack, accompanied by an unpreparedness and naivety on the British side, Singapore and Java fell in February and March and over 50,000 British soldiers were taken as prisoners of war. One of these was Colin.
Conditions within the Japanese camps were appalling with food rations scarce, soldiers forced to do back breaking work in torturous conditions, and illness rife. Unfortunately, it was dysentery and Beriberi that claimed Colin's life in the Horeoeko Island PoW camp on the on 9th September 1943 aged 22. He is buried in Ambon War Cemetery, Indonesia.
“Reeves: In sacred remembrance of our dearly beloved and only child, Colin, reported to have died on Sept 9 1943, whilst a prisoner in Japanese hands; late of Oakham and Peterborough (King’s) Schools, and of The Century Insurance Co., London, aged 22 years. ‘But O! for the touch of a vanish’d hand, and the sound of a voice that is still!’. From his broken-hearted Dad and Mum”.
The Times, 09th September 1946, Memorial Column.
Probate was granted on 28th January 1947 in Lincoln to his mother, Minnie, with effects valued at £164 18s 6d.
Until now, Colin’s name was not on the list of Old Oakhamian Fallen of the Second World War and does not appear in the War Chapel Memorial. But we hope that our continuing research will help to reverse these oversights and ensure that all of our fallen are remembered for their sacrifice.
Please do share with us the stories of any soldiers, from any conflict, who you will be remembering over the commemoration events.
Many thanks to King’s Peterborough for their records and information.