3,320 Old Alleynians served during World War II. 330 died of wounds or were lost at sea; 115 were interned in Prisoner of War camps. Brigadier Lorne Campbell (1902-1991) and Captain Pip Gardner (1914-2003) were awarded the Victoria Cross, Major Herbert Barefoot was awarded the George Cross, and 33 other OAs the Distinguished Service Order. Age between 20 and 28 years, thirteen Old Alleynians took part in the Battle of Britain between August to October 1940; two won the Distinguished Flying Cross and eight lost their lives.
Dulwich College was the only major London school not evacuated for the whole war. The damage to the campus included half the Science buildings, the Fives and Squash courts, the boiler house, the roofs of Ivyholme and Blew and most of the ceilings and windows across the site. In 1945 the Master, Christopher Gilkes, told the Alleyn Club that the previous two years had been the most dangerous and anxious time in the College’s entire history as ‘there was not a room in which we could safely sit’: another direct hit and the school would have ‘gone under’.
The Alleynian, the Dulwich College magazine, records that the “eve of VE-Day was celebrated at the College by a huge bonfire … Tuesday 8th and Wednesday, May 9th were celebrated as whole School Holidays. In the afternoon of Thursday, May 10th the school lined both sides of Dulwich Common and cheered the King and Queen as their Majesties drove past with the Royal Party on their tour of South-East London.”
Shortly after VE Day blast walls in front of the main building were demolished. It was a long time before the damage caused by the War was totally eradicated: piles of rubble still surrounded the Boiler House, where Shackleton’s boat (sand-bagged, and unharmed by the bomb) was exposed to the elements once again, until it was given a new boat-house in 1953.