Sir William Mallalieu

Sir William Mallalieu

(OD 1922)
Politician, Journalist, Author and Naval Officer

Sir William ‘Per’ Mallalieu (OD 1922) attended the Dragon between 1916 and 1922 before progressing, via Cheltenham College to Trinity College, Oxford.

He was considered something of a schoolboy hero: the winner of cups for diving, gymnastics, cricket; captain of the hockey, rugby and debating teams; winner of history, divinity, recitation and reading prizes, and the player of four major roles in school plays (including those of Macbeth and Petrucio in The Taming of the Shrew). In his leaving year of 1922 at the Dragon, he was awarded the Officers’ Cup, one given, by the vote of the whole School, to the boy who had “the most gentlemanly bearing and best influence on other boys.” Speaking of the Mallalieu brothers, Skipper commented,

“We have had fine fellows, fine scholars and fine athletes before: but never have we had, at the same time in the School, three boys who each combined in himself the fine fellow, fine scholar and athlete as they are combined in these three. It has been a wonderful privilege to masters and boys to have these three to lead the School.”

Per’s political and journalistic ambitions had to go on hold when he was called up in 1942 and he joined the Royal Navy as an ordinary seaman. Out of his experiences of naval escort work on a destroyer in the Arctic convoys to Russia came a book: Very Ordinary Seaman. Of it, Michael Foot wrote, “… A masterpiece. It must take its place on any shelf purporting to hold the English classics of sea literature.” The hardback edition sold 64,000 copies.

In 1945 Per married Harriet Tinn and they had two children: Ben Mallalieu, author and a Travel editor for The Guardian, and Ann (Baroness Mallalieu QC). Sir William ‘Per’ Mallalieu died on 13 March 1980, aged 71. At his funeral, the lesson was read by a Dragon contemporary (and later member of staff), Francis Wylie and Michael Foot, having given the address, contributed an appreciation to the Tribune:

“From the moment I first set eyes on him, I fell, as I’m sure countless others did too, beneath his charm and its strange magic never lapsed thereafter. A poor word, charm, I fear, to describe what he had: a careless, uncalculating quality, an overflowing, never-failing sense of humour, a gift for comradeship, a faith in our common humanity…”

Read More at Skipper’s War

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