Armitage, John Lionel Frederick
John Lionel Frederick Armitage was the only son of Kenneth Lionel Frederick Armitage and Dorothy Anne Beresford Armitage, the daughter of Dr James Beresford-Heelas. The family lived at Ashdown House, Tidworth, Hampshire. He was one of the best Classical scholars of his year. In addition to numerous other prizes, he won the Warden and Fellows’ Prizes for Greek Prose and Greek Verse, the Spanish Prize, a School Exhibition and a Scholarship at Oriel. He only stayed four years in the school, deciding to go up to Oxford early in order to leave time afterwards for travel and Modern Languages, as he hoped eventually to go into the Diplomatic Service. He was a good player of most ball games; he was in 2nd XI in his last summer term in addition to being Captain of Fencing. At Oxford he got a first in “Mods”, he represented Oriel at most games and fenced for the University. He also played cricket for the Hampshire Hogs.
He obtained a commission in the Royal Artillery at the outbreak of war, and was an instructor for a time at the 121st Officer Cadet Training Unit at Aldershot. Later he was an Intelligence Officer with the 1st Armoured Division and was finally posted to A Battery, 11th Field Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery, going with them to Libya as part of 1 Support Group, 1st Armoured Division. On the way there, an Old Wykehamist Dinner was held, and is described in the Wykehamist of February 1942:
During the recent visit of this convoy to a certain port, an Old Wykehamist dinner was held at the Cumberland Hotel. “Domum” was sung, and followed by the traditional hot, in which College and the younger generation of ‘C’ defeated ‘A’ and ‘I’. The only baker we could obtain came off a sofa, and was two feet square and harder than most – an excuse which ‘A’ and ‘I’ put forward for their defeat. The excuse was not accepted. The following were present at the dinner
G. Keble Moberly C1884-87
G.S. Moberly C1910-14
R.E.E. Christian C1902-05
P.H. Duranty A1894-97
J.D. Eggar A1930-35
H.F.C. Tompson I1933-38
J.L.F. Armitage Coll. 1933-37
I am, Sir, yours, etc.,
J. L. F. Armitage, Lieut., RHA
11th Regt., Royal Horse Artillery
11th November, 1941″
In January 1942 his battery was left as a rearguard to a column withdrawing. H F C Tompson, who had been present at the OW Dinner, was killed by a bomb on 21st January (see individual entry). The battery was then attacked by a large force of tanks near Bir el Feheim and eventually received a direct hit, injuring Armitage in the spine, although he continued to organise the guns. His last remark was “I’m sorry, Major, I am afraid I can’t lay any more, as I can’t use my legs”. Two officers of the battery, less severely wounded, were able to get away, but they had to leave Armitage to be taken prisoner by the Germans.
He died the next day, 24th January 1942 and is reported by the Germans to have been buried at Bir el Feheim, although his grave was subsequently lost. He is commemorated on the Alamein Memorial, Column 13.
He was recommended for the D.S.O. for his gallantry in this action, although this appears not to have been awarded.
- Surname: Armitage
- Forenames or initials: John Lionel Frederick
- House: College
- Years in School: 1933-1937
- Rank: Lieutenant
- Regiment: Hon. Artillery Company, RHA
- Date of Birth: 21st August 1919
- Date of Death: 24th January 1942
- How Died: Died as a Prisoner of War
- Location in War Cloister: Inner A1
- Decoration: NA
- Burial Site: Unknown but commemorated on Column 13 of the Alamein Memorial