|9 Nov 2020
Geoffrey Lancashire was born on 14th July 1924 and attended John Lyon School from 1935-1940. Searching the Old Lyonian magazines of that era, the name Lancashire pops up again and again – a keen sportsman, playing in both the Football and Cricket First XIs, endlessly scoring goals – but these are all references to John Lancashire, Geoff’s clearly very sporty older brother. In fact, Geoff is so little mentioned that one could begin to doubt he actually attended John Lyon School! It is only on reading John Lyon’s Dream that the reason for Geoff’s absence in the magazines becomes clear – he loathed games and was absent where possible for sport or even when not possible. On one Wednesday Geoff was caught skiving at the cinema, for which he was given a detention. In a later era, Geoff’s musical talents might well have been brought out at School – part of his love of the cinema was listening to the organ there, playing the organ was a hobby Geoff maintained until late in life.
Geoffrey may not have enjoyed the sporting or academic side of school life, but was fiercely loyal to the friends he made at school. He left school early because his father died young. Like his elder brother he entered the bank where he started to get a taste of what it was like to be respected and given responsibility. He was persuaded against his better nature to join the Sea Cadets, and almost immediately he found how much he enjoyed the camaraderie and discipline that were to become such a huge part of his life.
Geoff was commissioned at eighteen into the Royal Navy and spent most of 1943 on Convoys in the Atlantic as a naval rating. He showed excellent promise and transferred to Greenwich (and Roedean!) for his officers training. He was then posted to the South Caribbean to be in charge of Motor Torpaedo Boats, no doubt where his taste for Navy rum was allowed to flourish. He returned to the UK in 1945 and was on anti-submarine duties on the HMS Pearl, which supported HMS Bulldog, where the surrender of German forces in the Channel Islands was signed on 9th May 1945.
Geoff wore his war medals with enormous pride to each Remembrance service. He medals included the 1939 to 1945 Star (awarded to personnel who completed operational service overseas between 3 September 1939 and 8 May 1945), the Atlantic Star (awarded for operational service in the Atlantic and home waters between 3 September 1939 and 8 May 1945) and the War Medal (awarded to all full time personnel of the armed forces wherever they were serving).
However, Geoff’s abiding memory of the war was that sixteen of the thirty-two boys in his form did not return – almost all of them aircrew.
Geoff continued his career at sea for some years, especially in Malta and Hong Kong, but as the Navy downsized he eventually had to return to Civvy Street in 1956.
Later he returned to Harrow where he commanded the Harrow Sea Cadets for 10 years and made numerous friends. After many years volunteering, Geoff became President of the Harrow branch of the Royal Naval Association. So if he wasn’t in the bar at the Old Lyonians, he could generally be found at the British Legion.
He was also a keen supporter of the School and OLA (which his sporty elder brother served as President of from 1978-1983), serving on the bar committee for many years. He was a regular at the key annual School and OLA events, attending OLA AGMs until 2017 and Remembrance Services until 2018, as well as many Association Days, School performances, lunches and Founder’s Days over the years.
Having grown up in and around Harrow, Geoff lived independently until last year in his flat on South Hill Avenue. He had the same Harrow telephone number that was in the Lancashire family for over 100 years. Sadly ill-health eventually persuaded him to move closer to his nephew, Martin Lancashire (OL 1970-1977) in Droitwich. There he was well cared for, enjoying the company of Martin and his carer Aiden. He died peacefully at home, with his family, on 25th October 2020.