Searle was best known for his comic drawings depicting the outrageous antics of the St Trinian’s girls, and for his cartoons for the Molesworth series, about life at a boy’s prep school and written by Geoffrey Willans.
He was also a brilliant satirist, and some of his darker material was influenced by the time he spent as a prisoner of war during World War II.
There, he worked on the infamous “Railway of Death” – a Japanese project to create a rail link between Thailand and Burma, the construction of which led to the death of more than 100,000 labourers, including 16,000 Allied prisoners.
Some of the work he created while captive is displayed at the Imperial War Museum in London.
Searle “created an alternative to the conformity of Harold Macmillan’s Britain”, his publisher Simon Winder said.
“He gave Britain in the 1950s particularly a sense of anarchy. He was extraordinarily sceptical about all forms of authority [and] there’s something just astonishingly anarchic about Molesworth and St Trinian’s,” Winder said.
“That’s why they have appealed to so many generations.”
Cartoonist Gerald Scarfe described Searle as his “hero”.
“He was clever and he was funny and he could draw. A lot of cartoonists come up with an idea first but Ronald could really draw.”
The artist died on 30 December in a hospital near his home in southern France. “[He] passed away peacefully in his sleep, with his children and grandson by his side,” Searle’s daughter Kate Searle told Reuters.