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Brighton 1904-1920

Hassocks 1920-1940

Lichfield 1940-1944

Nassau 1940-1944

Hassocks 1944-1954

Hassocks 1954-1972

Post Closure 1972-

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HISTORY: Clerihew House, Nassau, Bahamas, 1940-1944

Click on the image above to run a fascinating b/w silent film
of the Belmont years in Nassau 1940-1945

The late David Howard, one of the Belmont Nassau Old Boys, provided the following account:

In the course of the summer term 1940 plans were being considered to move the school overseas.

While travelling in the USA in the ’twenties, Max Burr had met Sir Harry Oakes, a Canadian with British nationality, who had since made a fortune from gold mining. Oakes had property in the Bahamas and offered Belmont the use of Clerihew House, a four-story 18th century building on the waterfront in Nassau. This was originally a popular suggestion with the parents and a majority accepted the idea, but the sinking of a ship carrying evacuees to America caused many to change their minds.

In the end thirteen boys and three sisters, accompanied by Mr J and his niece Elizabeth (Miss J), sailed from Liverpool on RMS Orduna on 12 August 1940 in a convoy of fifty ships. The remainder stayed at Lichfield.

The convoy was torpedoed by German U boats in the North Atlantic and six ships were lost but the Belmont party arrived safely on August 24. They were welcomed by the new Governor, the Duke of Windsor, and term began on 12 September. [See photo of Sir Harry Oakes with the Duke.]

The teaching staff were drawn from the island and included Kenneth Brown, an announcer on Radio Nassau; Father Holmes, a local priest later to become a bishop; Baroness Trolle, a Swede, and Mrs Marcelle Goldsmith, mother of Teddy and Jimmie (later Sir James), who joined the school as pupils.

The boys and girls were invited to Government House for Christmas Day, 1940.

Belmont became very popular with the local residents, the numbers rising to 36 boys and 16 girls in January and approached a hundred by the end of the year. These included the ADC to the Governor’s children, Sir Harry Oakes’s two sons and a daughter and Norman Solomon whose uncle, Sir Kenneth Solomon, was Speaker of the Bahamian House of Assembly.

There were no facilities for football or cricket, but the children played tennis and badminton, rode horses, continued archery, sailed and swam. Indeed three of the pupils became so proficient that they were selected for a swimming tour of Florida – before Pearl Harbour intervened.

The children all did a first aid course with the Red Cross and were presented with their certificates by the Duchess, its active President.

The choristers became an important part of the Nassau Cathedral Choir.

The annual school play, written by Max Burr for Lichfield, was also performed in Nassau – al fresco.

The holidays were, of course, school without lessons but, as the war dragged on, most of the children were ‘adopted’ by parents of local pupils. The original expectation had been for a stay of about 18 months but was extended to three and a half years.

A tragedy occurred on the night of 7 July 1943 when Sir Harry Oakes was battered to death at his Nassau home. His son-in-law Alfred de Marigny was accused of the murder, but acquitted. The culprit has never been found.

[See more about Sir Harry in his Wikipedia entry and an intreguing family history.]

Belmont Bahamas returned to England after a journey of six legs by train, sea and air via Miami, New York, New Orleans, Lisbon, Foynes in Ireland and Northolt. They arrived at Lichfield on March 2, 1944.

See also Anne Attwood's amazingly detailed reminiscences of the Nassau Experience.