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Ronald Searle CBE HRWS (1920-2011)

Ronald William Fordham Searle, CBE HRWS (1920-2011)

Equally inspired by a wide range of experience and a great knowledge of the history of caricature, Ronald Searle honed an incisive graphic skill to develop an unparalleled graphic oeuvre, an oeuvre that has immortalised him as one of the most popular and influential cartoonist-illustrators of all time.

The son of a railwayman, Ronald Searle was born in Cambridge on 3 March 1920, and was educated in the city at the Boys’ Central School. He started work as a solicitors’ clerk, then joined the hire purchase department of the Co-operative Society, studying in the evenings and later full-time at Cambridge Technical College and School of Art (1935-39).

Searle contributed cartoons regularly to the
Cambridge Daily News from the age of fifteen. Enlisting in the Royal Engineers at the outbreak of the Second World War, he spent some time in Kircudbright, where he encountered evacuees from St Trinnean’s, a progressive girls’ school situated in Edinburgh. This resulted in his first cartoon for Lilliput, published in October 1941, and later developed into the anarchic St Trinian’s, known through a series of books and their cinematic spin offs. With the later schoolboy character, Nigel Molesworth of St Custard’s (devised with Geoffrey Willans in 1953), this is one of his most famous creations.

In October 1941, the Royal Engineers set sail for Singapore, arriving in December.

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