Bloxham School is sad to announce the passing of one of the most celebrated members of the Old Bloxhamist community, Francis de Marneffe (Wf 40-43).

Francis de Marneffe, who died on 15 April at the age of 97, was a distinguished physician who led a long and remarkable life. In 1940, when he was a 16-year-old schoolboy, he left Brussels on his bicycle with 500 francs in his pocket five days after Hitler invaded Belgium. He kept one step ahead of the advancing Germans and crossed to England on the last ship out of Bordeaux before the French surrender. He eventually arrived in Bloxham, where his aunts lived at Nut Tree Cottage in Courtington Lane, and attended the school for the next three years. He joined the RAF in 1943, becoming a fighter pilot, before studying medicine at King’s College, London, where he was the stroke in the coxless four which won the Wyfold Cup at Henley in 1946. On 28 April he was due to be one of five inductees at King’s College, London, to be honoured in their Sports Hall of Fame for his rowing achievements.

Francis went on to enjoy a distinguished career in medicine in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was Director of McLean Hospital for twenty-five years and remained a faculty member of the Harvard Medical School for many years. Under his stewardship, McLean became America’s leading psychiatric facility, with its residents including Sylvia Plath, Ray Charles and the mathematician John Nash. At the age of 92 Francis revisited the scene of his earlier sporting triumph, rowing at Henley in a crew of King’s alumni and students to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the 1946.

When he paid his final visit to Bloxham in July 2018, along with another distinguished OB, Peter Barwell (Wf 45-53), Resident Secretary Simon Batten had the honour of showing him around his old school. This visit coincided with Francis becoming Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur, the highest decoration available to the French government.

Bloxham School extends its sincere condolences to the de Marneffe family.