By Olivia Williams
(St Edmund Hall, 2006)
Oxford University Officers’ Training Corps
The OU Officers’ Training Corps is one of the oldest units in the British Army; formed by students in 1642. When war broke out in 1914 members of the Officers’ Training Corps (OTC) were fondly known as ‘The Bugshooters’ after the seemingly pointless hours spent on Christ’s Church Meadow drilling with rifles and shooting at nothing but bugs. This was all to change. Lieutenant Colonel Simon Mason, the current Commanding Officer, said: “Four years later over 2000 Oxford students had fallen in the war. My predecessor, Lt Col J F Stenning, was charged with training the best of Britain’s future for the trenches, an unenviable task.”
Oxford University Press
Around 50 per cent of the Oxford University Press workforce were conscripted, the majority in the first few months. To meet the need, women began to enter areas of the press they hadn't had access to before: such as the print and office space. At the time, the man in charge of the printing house was the Printer Horace Hart (best remembered for Hart’s Rules). The steady dissolution of his workforce, made up of generations of men he had known for years from the close-knit community of Jericho, was thought to be too much for him. He sadly took his own life in 1916.
Parts of Port Meadow were transformed during the war into a military aerodrome for training the Royal Flying Corps - each morning livestock had to be moved out of the flight path. In total, 15 air crew and pilots were killed flying in or around the Port Meadow training base.
Many Rhodes Scholars from across the constituencies lost their lives during the conflict and are remembered publicly in the rotunda of Rhodes House. The listing of names includes those of German Rhodes Scholars, as well as those fighting for the Allies, which was unusual on memorials at that time.
Oxford Town Hall
Just 17 years after the official opening of Oxford’s present Town Hall building, it found itself being used for a very different purpose than what it had originally been designed for. Almost as soon as war broke out, the Town Hall became part of the 3rd Southern General Hospital.
In 1916 the College addressed concerns about its own vulnerability to enemy aircraft and took out an insurance policy with Lloyds “for £10,000... to insure the College... against damage from enemy aircraft”.
Somerville, as an all female college, was not pressed to the same extend by calls to service. However, the College was by no means untouched, vast numbers took leave to work as interpreters or nurses and the college became part of the General Hospital.
John Scott Haldane
Fellow of New College, Oxford, John Scott Haldane began the slightly unorthodox technique of experimenting on himself and his family in his home laboratory in Crick Road, Oxford to develop the first prototype of the gas mask. Scott Haldane's speciality was respiration, he had had notable success in his introduction of canaries in coal mines to test for toxic fumes. When the Germans began using poison gas in 1915 he threw himself into the war effort as a front line scientist. Throughout his career he was renowned for his self experimentation.
In 1891 he married Louisa Kathleen Trotter and they lived at 11 Crick Road, Oxford. They raised their children here, the geneticist J. B. S. Haldane, and the novelist Naomi Mitchison. It was also here that Haldane conducted some of his early experiments with gases (both on himself and his family!) The Haldanes later lived at Cherwell house (subsequently demolished to make way for Wolfson College) with a private laboratory built for Haldane at the end of Linton Road.
Wadham College Gazette, No 66, Michaelmas term, 1919
“The ‘reconstruction’ which has been promised everywhere, and which has been realized so rarely, has come to pass in the old Universities; they are both full to overflowing, fuller than they have been in living memory…at the end of 1918 we had 14 men up, this term we have had nearly 140. And the old life has come back with all its vigour. The return of the tide of young life to Oxford has naturally reminded us of those whom we shall never see again, those who by the sacrifice of themselves have saved Oxford and England for the generations to come.”
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All images © Oxford University Images, Oxford University Officers' Training Corps
Wadham College Gazette is repurposed with kind permission of Wadham College, Oxford