Blake, John Philip (1917-1944)
Sherborne School, UK, Book of Remembrance for former pupils who died in the Second World War, 1939-1945.
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Credit: Sherborne School Archives, Abbey Road, Sherborne, Dorset, UK, DT9 3AP.g
Details: John Philip Blake, born 17 November 1917 in Portsmouth, Hampshire, son of Philip Blake and Marjorie Flora Blake, of Havant, Hampshire. Brother of David Eustace Blake (1925-2015) who played for Hampshire XI and the Marylebone Cricket Club.
Attended Emsworth preparatory school; Head of School; Captain of Games.
Attended Aldenham School, Elstree, Hertfordshire; Head of School; Head of House; Captain of Cricket; School colours for Fives and Hockey.
St John's College, Cambridge; received his Cambridge Blue for cricket in 1939 (represented Cambridge University 1938-1939); member of the University Wanderers Hockey Club and of the Hawks Club; captain of cricket and hockey at St Johns.
Played for Hampshire XI, 1937-1939.
Sherborne School, teacher of mathematics, Michaelmas term 1939; Westcott House tutor. In 1939 he called up as a Naval Instructor at Greenwich.
WW2, Captain, No. 43 Royal Marines Commando.
Awarded the Military Cross in June 1944. The citation reads:
Temporary Lieutenant (A/Captain) John Philip BLAKE, Royal Marines. For outstanding gallantry and leadership shown while serving with the 43rd Royal Marine Commando in the attack which led to the capture of Mt Ortino, Italy on 3rd February 1944. On reaching the top of the Mount, through heavy machine gun fire, without hesitation and heedless of the danger from grenades, he led the forward section of his Troop in a bayonet charge on the enemy position and captured 20 prisoners. Later in the day during a strong enemy counter attack, this gallant officer moved from position to position encouraging his men and directing their fire.
MC-LG 27 June 1944.
Died on 3 June 1944, aged 26, at Brac Island, (Yugoslavia) Croatia. His Cdo had been detailed to attack a German strongpoint (Pt 622) and having led his Troop through a minefield onto the objective he was killed when the Germans counter attacked.
John Philip Blake was the only casualty out of the twelve members of Sherborne School teaching staff who fought in the Second World War.
Belgrade War Cemetery, Serbia, 9. E. 7. Inscription on headstone: ‘B.A. (CANTAB) BELOVED ELDER SON OF PHILIP AND MARJORIE BLAKE, HAVANT, HANTS, ENGLAND’ www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2224035/BLAKE,%20JOHN...
On a lectern at St Faith's Church, Havant dopcms.rockitg.com/stfaithshavant/lectern/
Commando Association, Officers of 43 RM Commando: gallery.commandoveterans.org/cdoGallery/v/units/Royal+Mar...
Obituary, The Shirburnian, March 1945:
Captain John Philip Blake, M.C. (Royal Marines). John Blake came to Sherborne as a teacher of Mathematics in September 1939, spending only one term here before joining the Royal Marines. He was present at the Dakar incident and remained in the tropics for a large part of 1940-41 before being transferred to the Mediterranean. In July 1943, he joined the 43rd R.M. Commando and commanded a troop of 70 men. He went to Italy in January 1944, was awarded the Military Cross "for his outstanding gallantry and leadership shown while serving with the 43rd R.M. Commando in the attack on Mt. Ornito on 3rd February"; was present at the Anzio landing, and later crossed over to the Dalmatian Islands. He returned to Italy and on 13th June was reported missing as the result of leading an attack on a German strong point. His death in action was confirmed at the beginning of August.
Few will ever know the tremendous loss the School has sustained. It is hard to realise that such a splendid personality will not return to give us of his best, as it was his impatient desire to be able to do.
The essence of John Blake's character was naturalness and simplicity. His successes at school and university were more than enough to turn his head, but he never showed the slightest sign of conceit nor any desire to find his friends chiefly from among the athletically successful. He was Head of his Preparatory School at Emsworth and captain of all games; Head of the School and of Mead's House at Aldenham, where he was also captain of cricket and a school colour for fives and hockey. At Cambridge he won his Blue for cricket, was a member of the University Wanderers Hockey Club and of the Hawks Club, and was captain of Cricket and Hockey at St. John's. But no one would ever learn these things from his own lips. Amongst his own interests cricket stood out pre-eminently. All his letters to me contained some reference to it, no matter what time of year it might be. Sound and stylish bat though he was, it was his fielding which most impressed and gave such pleasure to all who saw him play. Whether he was playing for Cambridge or Hampshire or in some club match or on the village green, it was equally keen and polished, a perfect expression of himself. He had a most retentive brain and great powers of concentration.
But the most outstanding features of his life were his deep devotion to his family and to his faith and the enormous enjoyment he got out of life and friendship. He made friends wherever he went, for he entered whole-heartedly into the joys and sorrows of others in a natural way. All his officers stressed that he was a born leader of men and that all his men were so proud of him and so fond of him and talked of his outstanding personality. Perhaps the words of his Commanding Officer to his parents sum him up as well as words can: "John's loss to you is irreparable, as it is to the Corps and to the nation - an officer of his quality is quite irreplaceable".
R.S. Thompson (Housemaster of Westcott House 1936-1952)
Old Shirburnian Society Annual Report, November 1944:
'Blake, John Philip, M.C. (Staff), was educated at Aldenham where he was Head of the School and Captain of the XI. He later went to St John's College, Cambridge and was Captain of the College Cricket and Hockey teams. He obtained a cricket blue in 1939. He joined the Staff at Sherborne in 1939 but left on being gazetted to the Royal Marines being attached to the Commandos. He was awarded the Military Cross for outstanding gallantry and leadership in the attack which led to the capture of Mount Ormito in February last. He was reported Missing in June last and is now known to have lost his life.'