‘We woke to the call of bugles, and slept to the sound of tired route-marchers coming home.’ As Rachael Poole recalled in December 1918, Oxford was transformed during the Great War. Soldiers and cadets occupied most men’s colleges which were left virtually empty as undergraduates and some younger dons enlisted. Lecture rooms were used for military training, practice trenches were dug in green spaces, and trainee pilots flew from a temporary Port Meadow airfield. The threat of invasion sparked the formation of a Dad’s Army, the Oxford Volunteer battalion, and City streets and shop windows were blacked-out as a precaution against air raids.
University, college, and other public buildings became military hospitals, and thousands of war casualties were brought by train to be treated in Oxford. Belgian and Serbian refugees found a temporary home in a City which, through its University contacts, had a remarkably cosmopolitan outlook. Civilians, and especially women, were actively involved in fund-raising, welfare and relief work, providing social activities for wounded soldiers, and sending comforts to men at the front and prisoners of war. They also cultivated war allotments formed as food shortages led to the introduction of communal kitchens and, ultimately, to rationing.
Oxford dons, both male and female, took on crucial war work at home and abroad, and academic life in the University depended largely upon the women’s colleges. Local industries converted to war production, and women and girls found work in munitions factories, and in other businesses as more men joined the forces. Soldiers home on leave saw an Oxford undamaged by war, but few residents were free from anxiety, and college heads and the poorest citizens were afflicted equally by the loss of loved ones.
This book tells the fascinating, and largely forgotten, story of Oxford’s part in waging the Great War.
- Publisher : Pen and Sword Military; Illustrated edition (February 19, 2015)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 176 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1783462973
- ISBN-13 : 978-1783462971
- Item Weight : 13.4 ounces
- Dimensions : 6 x 0.43 x 9 inches