Category Archives: War and warfare

Gifts sent to the Duke of Wellington

Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, victor of Waterloo, was a celebrated public figure. His official correspondence, safely stored in the strongrooms at the University of Southampton, bears witness to the fact that members of the public wrote to him about everything and anything. As well as this, the lucky man received a barrage of gifts! In reality, this was not as good as it first sounds; as we discussed in a previous post on the matter, he was so overwhelmed that he was required to direct staff at Apsley House, his London residence, to refuse all packages. Of course, not all the “gifts” he received were straightforward; many people sent items to Wellington with ulterior motives, as we will soon discover.

A true gift is something given willingly, without payment. Some of the items sent to the Duke appear to be genuinely that: no strings attached. On 3 March 1831, W.Thorpe of Manchester informed the Duke he was sending him one hogshead of cannel [coal] to Apsley House. Thorpe stated that while he had a very large family and a small income, he intended sending a portion of cannel to the Duke every winter as he is indebted to the Duke for “the comfort I enjoy by my fireside”. In his reply, the Duke is grateful but unable to accept gifts and wishes to know how to send payment. [WP4/3/4/11]

Some people chose to send medical supplies to Wellington. This includes J.R.King of Bath who in October 1841 followed up his delivery of a box of lozenges by asking whether the product was efficacious. Does it seem callous to suggest that some people might have ulterior motives in sending these gifts? Wellington’s approbation of your product would be hugely significant; the Duke was nobody’s fool and was acutely aware of the significance of his patronage. [WP2/79/70]

The Duke received his fair share of consumables. William Spicer sent blackberries in August 1842 [WP2/90/98]. Another delivery contained a three brace of partridges from Mr Lowndes of Dover in January 1830. Charles Culling Smith, London Customs — the intermediary — notes that Lowndes is a good politician who admires Wellington as a statesman and a soldier. [WP1/1084/4 and reply WP1/1090/12]

Samuel Triscott [WP2/84/23-4 27] sends a cask of arrowroot from Bermuda and from Sir John Hobhouse, a sample of Assam tea [WP2/73/170-1] along with a note. At this time arrowroot was used in biscuits, puddings, jellies and cakes. When boiled with beef tea or milk it was considered an easily digestible food for children and people with dietary restrictions. Triscott and Hobhouse are not just sending free gifts but aiming to generate trade.

MS 62 Wellington Papers 2/73/171

Other more substantial deliveries include two Shetland ponies send by Thomas Edmundston of Buness in Shetland in August 1842 [WP2/91/32]

Three ponies standing in a field under an oak tree. Etching by J. Scott after B. Marshall. Credit: Wellcome CollectionAttribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

At Christmas 1841, the Duke received a boar’s head from Ernest Augustus the King of Hanover. This letter caused us some consternation! Should it be included with the blackberries and partridges as food? Or as miscellaneous other?! And, most importantly, what sort of state was it in when it got to the Duke having been sent from Germany? [WP2/73/92-3

The Hanoverian King hadn’t gone all “Godfather” on the Duke: there really is a Boar’s Head Feast Christmas festival. This ancient tradition of sacrificing a boar and presenting its head at a Yuletide feast may have roots in Germanic paganism. In fact, it’s still celebrated in some public schools and parts of America. Fortunately, we now have no idea respecting the whereabouts of the aforementioned boar’s head; we have no idea what the Duke did with it but hope it’s long been disposed of!

The stories they tell: the Southampton Fifth

On 8 October 1942, eighty young men assembled for a dinner at Connaught Hall in Swaythling. They were attendees of the Fifth RAF Short Course run at University College, Southampton, and this week’s blog will look at the archives relating to this cohort.

On the outbreak of war in September 1939, Parliament introduced a National Service (Armed Forces) Act imposing military service on men between the age of 18 and 41 years. Cadet schemes were introduced to encourage men to volunteer for initial training. In partnership with a number of universities, the Air Ministry launched a scheme where candidates considered suitable for air crew training could spend six months at a University pursuing an academic syllabus whilst also undergoing basic training. Cambridge, Oxford and Durham were some of the other institutions that hosted such courses. The first course at Southampton was held in October 1940 and the final one was completed in 1946. However, it is believed the Southampton Fifth was the only one to document its membership and record their experiences. The archive relating to the course forms collection MS303.

Photograph of personnel of Southampton Fifth RAF Short Course, c.1943

Group photograph of cadets on the Southampton Fifth RAF Short Course, 1942-3 [MS303 A1058/4/1]

The young men on the course were enrolled in the RAF Volunteer Reserve and issued with RAF uniforms with a white “flash” in the caps indicating Air Crew under training.  The RAF training, provided by RAF officers and instructors, was held on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesday afternoons and Saturday morning and included drill, morse code, physical training and classroom instruction on aircraft recognition and theory of flight. Cadets also gained some flying experience in a Tiger Moth. They wore their uniform and were under service discipline whilst attending this training. For the rest of the week the cadets, attired in civilian clothes, studied either an Arts or Science syllabus at the University College and engaged in the full range of student activities, playing sports, joining societies, contributing to the student publications and attending dances and other social events.

At the end of the course at Southampton the cadets were transferred for further training, which was often completed overseas: only two were to complete their training in the UK. Most of those on the course were not to see each other again, although they kept in touch through the Southampton Fifth Newsletter.

North American edition of Southampton Fifth Newsletter, October 1943

North American edition of Southampton Fifth Newsletter, no. 1, October 1943 [MS303 A1058/3]

The terms of reference for the newsletter, was written by Dominic McDonnell for the first edition, but was not included.

“On October 8 1942 `We’ were a nondescript band of youths from all walks of life, gathered together by authority for an important purpose – the motive was distant but none the less insistent. Time has shown us that this purpose was well and fully achieved. From a purely utilitarian standpoint – that of authority – our course was successful as any course could be. What more was to be expected?

…But now, since the exigencies of service have largely divided us, the need for preservation of an intellectual companionship is an urgent matter. This newsletter is an attempt to meet the situation… For all its shortcomings we hope it may achieve its primary purpose: to recall to your memory that grand and gallant company of which you were once a member and remind you of those lavishly happy days when we were guests of the Senate and students of University College Southampton.”

[MS303 A1058/1]

For David Hart, who was to return to Southampton after the war to undertake further study, the Short Course provided him with a welcome opportunity to decide his future direction. He noted “had I not had a Short Course plus time in the RAF to think about what I wanted/thought I ought to do with my life, it is likely that I would have given myself a far narrower range of choice”.

Two others, Bert Gurmin and Jeffery Turner recalled their callow youthful selves.

Bert A.Gurmin saw himself as “very much the country lad in the big city… It was my first time away from home on my own and for a good deal of the time I’m quite sure I was completely overwhelmed by the whole thing. I think to this day that I asked for the wrong course of study (I did ‘C’ Flight Physics Met. and Astro Nav.) While the knowledge I gained was useful not only subsequently in the RAF but in a school staff-room. I know now that the Rev. Kenneth Vickers… was quite right. He said to me ‘Young man, change now… From what I hear from Dr Potter you should be studying the Humanities…’ I didn’t of course (at 18 one knows best!) so I’ve taught maths for 32 years… but my greatest joy in my spare time now is reading social and economic history”.

University College Southampton rowing crew, with Jefffery Turner [MS303 A1058/4/1]

Jeffery Turner, standing on the right in the back row [MS303 A1058/4/1]

For Jeffrey Turner it was the sense he was “the odd one out in that I didn’t have benefit of an Air Training Corps education. I joined the OTC in 1938 (no uniform, khaki belt and a Lee Enfield, learning to`form fours’ in those days)”. On arriving at Waterloo station on 8 October he spotted someone who lived a quarter of a mile from his home. “I shared a room with Leslie Savage in Connaught, a comfortable association although our interests tended to follow different paths. Within ten minutes I found that a near neighbour was the captain of rowing at the school I had left, and I was signed up for college rowing before I could say `Hello’.”

Although not altogether impressed with the University course “in Mathematics we were taught about `Vectors’, a dry-as-dust subject on its own, and with an uninspired presentation”, but made up for it by “completing a failed physics subject in the London Intermediate Engineering exam, which provided sufficient brownie points to make a mark”. It was, however, “the interaction with the many and varied folk that one met, seemingly with every positive view of life, was an inspiration that contrasted with the rather pedestrian formal education that I had previously endured”.

This Southampton Fifth collection provides an insight into both one aspect of the University’s activity during the Second World War and the personalities who attended the course. This was only one of the wartime courses and we would be interested to hear about anyone attending others during this time.


The stories they tell: a letter before Waterloo

To mark the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo, for this “The stories they tell” blog we focus on one of the soldiers who fought on that day. The Archives and Manuscripts holds the letter that Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Ferrior wrote to his brother in Pembrokeshire a few days before the battle: it was to be his last letter as he died at Waterloo.

MS88_4_back (3)

Detail of letter from Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Ferrior to his brother Benjamin, June 1815 [MS88/4]

Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Ferrior (1772-18 June 1815) was born in Pennar, Pembrokeshire. A career soldier, he first appears as a cornet in the First Life Guards in 1797 and remained with this regiment, becoming a captain in 1802, a major in 1810 and subsequently a lieutenant colonel.

At Waterloo, the First Life Guards were part of the First (or Household) Brigade of Heavy Cavalry under the command of Major General Lord Edward Somerset.

Ferrior was in the thick of the action and led eleven charges during the battle. He is said to have died late in the day of the 18th June after leading a final charge, believed to be at dusk when the cavalry was ordered forward to harry the retreating columns of the Imperial Guard. The record shows that he was killed, although it is likely that he died of wounds.  In the Waterloo Roll Call, Charles Dalton, notes that it “is said to have led his regiment to the charge no less than eleven times and most of the charges were not made till after his head had been laid open by the cut of a sabre and his body pierced with a lance”.

On 7 June, when he was encamped in Flanders with his regiment, Ferrior wrote a letter to his brother Benjamin at the family farm of Pearson, St Brides in Pembrokeshire. This was, as the note on the back states, to be his final letter.  In it he describes the British army assembled for the Waterloo campaign, reviews of the troops by various dignitaries, and the countryside of Flanders and their farming methods. It also contains a heartfelt tribute to his brother for his kindness and friendship.

MS88_4_back (5)

Concluding part of letter from Lieutenant Colonel Ferrior to his brother when he thanks him for his “kindness and real brotherly friendship”. [MS88/4]

Ferrior’s letter is also written in a style reminiscent of official correspondence and despatches, very formal in tone and concise in details. There was a common tradition of soldiers’ correspondence being shared much more widely, not merely among friends and family but also in published form. This is a letter which Ferrior wrote on the eve of a momentous battle, perhaps conscious that it could be his last missive. The tone and the style represent both the image of the brave and sanguine officer ready to do his duty: “I have the satisfaction”, Ferrior wrote at the conclusion, “of finding myself compleately equipped according to my rank in the service.”

MS88_4_f1r (2)

First page of the letter from Lieutenant Colonel Ferrior to his brother, 7 June 1815 [MS88/4]

“We marched as I expected a few days after I wrote my last letter, we embarked at Ramsgate and landed at Ostend on the 3rd May without any casualty of consequence, we continued our march to a village three miles this side of Ghent, were we halted for the first day since we left Hyde Park Barracks. We remained there 7 or 8 days and then came here which is the headquarters of the cavalry. L[ieutenan]t General the Earl of Uxbridge who commands the cavalry is quartered at a convent adjoining the town which before the French revolution was a most magnificent place, but now in a state of decay, Bonaparte having thrown away all the fine pictures, destroyed the furniture and sold the large territories attached to this convent, but the church is still very fine. The rest of the cavalry are in cantonments in the surrounding villages, the King’s German Legion cavalry more in advance and nearer the French frontier. The First Life Guards is brigaded with the 2nd Life Guards, the Blues, and First Dragoon Guards, in all 10 squadrons all in most excellent condition and fine order and allowed to be as fine a body of cavalry as was ever seen and I think that my Reg[imen]t is not the worst amongst them. Lord Edward Somerset commands the brigade as Lord Wellington is at Brussels about 15 miles from hence, which is the headquarters of the army and about there our infantry are quartered. We are at present all quiet, we have no news, and we look at the London papers to see how the world is going on. We believe, and I am of that opinion, that as soon as the Prussians come up and join us, no time will be lost in commencing hostilities. A part of them, we hear, are now on the Rhine. It cannot therefore be long before we begin…”

Ferrior goes on to describe being presented to the King of France, whose court he described as “not very splendid” and the King as fat, unwieldy and suffering with gout.

He then describes how they had been reviewed three times since they had arrived:

“The first time the 1st and 2nd Regiments of Life Guards and Blues and being the senior officer, I had command of the three regiments in the field. Lord Uxbridge inspected us minutely and was pleased to express his entire approbation of the appearance and movements of the 3 regiments. Our second review was of the whole heavy cavalry, Lord Uxbridge wishing to pay a compliment to the Princes of Orange. The Prince accompanied by many foreigners of distinction reviewed and was much gratified by our appearance. Our third review as however superlatively grand by Field Marshal His Grace the Duke of Wellington accompanied by the Princes of Orange, by old Blucher, the Duke of Brunswick, by Marmont and by foreigners of different nations of high distinction. We were drawn up in three lines, the Hussars in the first line, the heavy cavalry in the second and the Light Dragoons in the third line, the artillery at different points of the line, in all 40 squadrons beside 9 troops of Horse Artillery, about 6000 men. The First Reg[imen]t had the [honour] of giving the guard of honour of one troop with its officers to Lord Wellington on the ground and a squadron received him at the convent, Lord Uxbridge’s quarters, where a grand dinner was prepared for the Princes, general officers and heads of departments and officers commanding regiments. It was very brilliant and Lord Wellington did me the high honour to come up to me and address me by saying that my regiment was in very fine order…”

After a long description of the countryside and the farming methods, Ferrior concludes his letter with the following message to his brother: “I can never sufficiently thank you for your kindness and real brotherly friendship for me”.

A reading of an extract of Ferrior’s letter can be accessed and downloaded at MS88.  You also can find a discussion of and reading of WP1/471/4 the condolence letter that the Duke Wellington sent to Lord Aberdeen on the death of Aberdeen’s brother Lieutenant Colonel Sir Robert Gordon at Waterloo. Both provide a glimpse of the individuals who took part in this military campaign and of the human cost of war.

The stories they tell: emergency rations anyone?

Welcome to our new series of blogs “The stories they tell” which will focus on a single item within the Special Collections to explore what stories these objects have to tell us on a whole range of themes.

And we thought we would start with a look at an object that is perhaps quite pertinent in the current circumstances, where there have been concerns about food and supplies, and that is an Australian Military Forces emergency ration tin found within the Broadlands Archives.

Australian Military Force emergency ration tin, with pull ring

Australian Military Force emergency ration tin, with pull ring

Such emergency rations were issued to every soldier involved in operations and there are a number of such items still surviving with information relating to the person to whom it had belonged. This sample presumably must have come into the possession of Lord Mountbatten during his time as Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia, 1943-6, although sadly there is no information on its former owner.

The problem of supplying and feeding their forces has been an issue for all commanders over the centuries and their approach to resolving this has varied. The invention of the tin can by Peter Durand, in 1810, was said to have revolutionised military rations. By the Boer war, at the end of the nineteenth century, Bovril was involved in producing war ration packs for the British army containing dried beef and cocoa. During the First World War, the emergency rations – or “Iron Ration” – carried by the British army soldiers contained preserved meat, cheese, biscuit, tea, sugar and salt. The equivalent for the US army apparently consisted of cakes made of a concoction of beef boullion powder and wheat, bars of chocolate and packs of salt and pepper.

In the period between the two World Wars, army rations developed into a number of types with emergency rations becoming classified as D rations. A rations were the most desired as they were garrison rations, usually comprised of fresh, refrigerated or frozen food cooked at the garrison. B rations were canned or packed field rations and C were pre-cooked ready-to-eat individual rations. The US forces developed a D emergency rations in the form of a chocolate bar designed to be light and nutritious but not too appealing so that soldiers would not be tempted to eat it unless they absolutely needed to.

The Australian Military D ration here, which were produced by A.Gadsden, comprised of: firstly, blocks of chocolate, which according to instructions inside the lid could be broken up and dissolved in hot water to make hot chocolate; secondly, tea tablets, to be used one per pannikin (small metal drinking cup); and thirdly salt tablets “to reduce fatigue and cure muscle cramps” and to be taken either in water or as desired. Such rations were expressly for emergency use only and the back of the tin has the message: “To be consumed only when no other rations of any kind are procurable. Consumption of this ration must be reported at the first opportunity”.

Back of AMF

Back of AMF Emergency Ration tin

Whilst nutritional science and technology has developed, so that field and combat rations of military forces today are somewhat more varied and might be supplied in pouches rather than cans, it is interesting to see that chocolate still remains a feature in many. So when we are looking to stock up on our supplies, perhaps including some chocolate in there is just good emergency planning.

Look out for next week’s blog when we look at an item within the Council of Christians and Jews archive.

“Such a desperate action” – two stories from the battlefield

Print of the Battle of Waterloo (1816) [MS 351/6 A4170/5]

There was widespread rejoicing at news of the Battle of Waterloo – the anniversary of which is today – and the conclusion of the war: this was an occasion equivalent to VE or VJ Day at the end of the Second World War. Wellington was lauded as a victor and hero and esteemed as both one of Europe’s leading generals and as its saviour. Heroic depictions of the military exploits appeared, such as the example below representing the death of Lieutenant Colonel Miller of the Guards at the Battle of Waterloo in  J.A. Atkinson’s Incidents of British bravery during the late campaigns on the continent… (Ackermann, London, 1817).

Death of Lieutenant Colonel Miller of the Guards at Waterloo [MS351/6 A4170/2 no 6]

Yet Wellington understood, as he recorded in his official despatch to Lord Bathurst of 19 June 1815, how victory on the battlefield often came at the cost of the loss of many lives: “Your Lordship will observe that such a desperate action could not be fought, and such advantages could not be gained, without great loss; and I am sorry to add that ours has been immense.”

Extracts from the correspondence of two soldiers held in the Special Collections provides an eloquent picture of the realities of life on the front line during the struggle for supremacy in Portugal in 1811 and on the Western Front in the First World War.

Engraving by Bartolomeo Pinelli of the campaign in Portugal, 1810-11

Lieutenant Colonel John Gurwood (1790-1845), who was the editor of  Wellington’s Dispatches, served under the Duke in the Peninsula from 1810. He was wounded at Sabugal, 3 April 1811, and distinguished himself leading the forlorn hopes at the storming of Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo. As a lieutenant of the 52nd Regiment of Foot in 1811, he describes in a letter to his mother of 16 March 1811 the intensity of the action by the British and allied army in expelling the French forces from Portugal during the course of March:

“We have been fighting for the last 4 days. The French retired … on the 6th at one in the morning… On the 11th we drove them through Pombal… On the plain of Redeinha [Redinha] we had 3 off[icer]s and 22 killed and wounded… On the 14th as soon as the fog cleared off… we got into one of the hottest affairs imaginable. We lost 1 officer killed, 3 cap[ains] wounded and a number killed and wounded… On the 15th were at it again…” [MS 321/5]

A career soldier, Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Dudley Samuel, DSO, had served with the Midlands Mounted Rifles in the Boer war. He was appointed a Second Lieutenant in the Third Volunteer Battalion, City of London (Royal Fusiliers) Regiment in December 1902 and served with the London Regiment throughout the First World War, eventually being appointed as commander of the 40th (Jewish) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers in 1918. Dudley Samuel was wounded four times during his service and received mention in despatches. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1917.

Major Frederick Dudley Samuel [MS336 A2097/1]

Major Frederick Dudley Samuel [MS336 A2097/1]

Dudley Samuel was involved in the Battle of Loos (25 September – 8 October 1915). The Artois-Loos Offensive aimed to break through the German Front in Artois. Whilst the British had some initial success north of Loos on the first day, a pause in the attack allowed the German army time to call in reinforcements for the Second position and the British suffered heavy casualties here on 26 September.

On 27 September he wrote to his wife Dorothy that they have come out from the Battle “as usual much depleted” with heavy losses and many killed.

“The Garhwal Brigade was heroic, it is the only word, it has been practically wiped out… Everyone stood to arms at 3.30am Saturday… At about 4.45 the guns started. At 5.50 we exploded an enormous mine the earth shook, a very muffled roar and it looked as if a whole trench went 300 feet in the air, then dense volumes of smoke were released everywhere and the German guns started on us and the Brigade advanced to the attack… Very few of the attackees came back, and I’m afraid all are killed or wounded. Three battalions are practically wiped out…

For us personally it is a great tragedy, so many friends in the Leicesters and Native Regiments gone… Our losses are over fifty, but we can’t tell yet. We of course are fortunate….” [MS336 A2097/5/2]

Part of an envelope, with the mark of the field censor, for a letter from Dudley Samuel to his wife [Ms 336 A2097/8/2/331]

The Battle of Waterloo and the Duke of Wellington were well remembered and received many marks of recognition during the 19th century: a previous blog looks at the battle and the Duke remembered. The Special Collections contains much other material reflecting different aspects of warfare from literary reflections to the service of VADs at the University War Hospital in the First World War.

Look out for further blogs, or why not visit the Archives and Manuscripts to find out more.

75th anniversary of D-Day: 6 June

Today, we commemorate the 75th anniversary of ‘D-Day’, the largest seaborne invasion in history. Codenamed Operation Neptune, this Allied invasion of Normandy commenced on 6 June 1944 as part of Operation Overlord, during World War II. The operation began the liberation of German-occupied France (and later Europe) from Nazi control, and laid the foundations of the Allied victory on the Western Front.

Days and Polhill

Colonel James O’Donald Mays pictured with fellow Georgian Lt. James Polhill, part of the American Navy’s logistical operations which provided landing craft and other vessels for the war effort [MS 379/3 A4024/10]

We will take a look at Southampton’s role in the operations through the papers and photographs collected by American Colonel James O’Donald Mays [MS 379/3 A4024], whose Army Port unit was assigned to Southampton to direct American military activities for the preparation for D-Day and its follow-up.  He later worked as a diplomat, journalist and author.

During the ensuing summer days and nights, Southampton witnessed a sight unparalleled in all its long momentous history. The military traffic, chiefly U.S.A., roared on in an unending torrent.

Almost every road and street carried its weight of vehicles, two and sometimes three a breast; trucks swept by loaded with soldiers, huge petrol tanks, jeeps, searchlights, DUKWs, great guns, tank-transporters and tanks without number, the giant Shermans roaring and grinding past, shaking the houses as they went.

Local historian Elsie M.Sandell writing for a 40th anniversary commemorative magazine produced by the Evening Echo, June 1984

Southampton was all but taken over by the military in the lead up to D-Day. Southampton Common accommodated large numbers of Allied troops and the foundations of their huts are still visible after long spells of dry weather. The Bargate in the shopping centre was a Military Police post.

Southampton was chosen as the chief supply and troop movement centre for the American army, known as the 14th Major Port of the US Army Transportation Corps. It was the centre of marine operations as the first shipment point for American men and supplies from the UK to the Continent. Southampton was essential in discharging of cargo before D-Day, loading of landing craft and other assault vessels for the European invasion and build up, and shipping of United states-bound troops under the re-deployment programme.

Entrance to the Administration offices of the 14th port

The administrative offices of the 14th Port [MS 379/3 A4024/10]

The 14th Port staff arrived in the United Kingdom on 16 July 1943 and three days later began operations at London, Southampton and Plymouth. Up to 1 February 1944, Port Headquarters were in London. When Allied strategists selected Southampton as the chief loading point for troops and war materials for the invasion, headquarters were moved to Southampton Civic Centre; offices were later relocated to Houndwell Park.

The port of Southampton was selected because of its strategic location. The “double tide” effected by the position of the Isle of Wight at the bottom of The Solent meant the port was perfectly suited for mass loading and sailing of vessels. It also benefited from a huge anchorage space off Cowes as well as deep water docking facilities and spacious loading sheds.


Members of a U.S. Navy beach Battalion medical unit stow their gear on the deck of an Landing Craft, Infantry (Large). They took park in an invasion rehearsal. [MS379/3 A4024/1]

Some impressive statistics for the period include that 8,300 ships passed through the harbour. Approximately 2,500,000 men were transported to and from the Continent and the United States and 3,000,000 tons of goods were carried to European ports and beaches.

The operation naturally had a huge impact on the city and its civilian population. Three Southampton schools were used as billets for United States Army troops. Swaythling Infant (Mayfield), Taunton’s and Ascupart Road. 

Downthe Hatch)

American soldiers boarding a Landing Craft, Infantry (Large) as part of an invasion rehearsal  [MS 379/3 A4024/10] Credit: U.S. Navy Photograph Public Relations Section, London

This huge flow of men and vehicles required co-ordination. Military police escorts were required and checkpoints established and a checking system was instigated to help prevent congestion in Southampton’s streets. Routes were planned to interfere as little as possible with civilian transport.

The Army Transportation Corps Harbour Craft Companies were attached to the 14th Port and it was their job to operate the hundreds of small tug-boats, floating cranes and other harbour craft assigned to the Port. One of the key vessels was the LST – Landing Ship Tank – a “lifeline” to supply Europe. It was capable of carrying 50 to 75 vehicles; 2,539 LSTs were loaded at Southampton.


D-Day marked a key victory in the Second World War: it prevented Hitler launching his new V-weapons against British cities in a last-minute effort to save Germany. For more on Southampton’s role in this momentous event, see the Library’s Cope Collection for additional resources.

Highfield Campus 100: 1940s

The Second World War was a period of both anxiety and opportunity for University College, Southampton. The decision not to evacuate the Highfield site allowed the College to play a full part in wartime training and education, and to undertake research related to the war effort but meant that students and staff were potentially at risk from enemy action.

Above Bar, looking south. December 1940 [Cope photograph SOU 91.5 ABO ph2809]

Lying on the outskirts of Southampton, the College escaped the destruction seen in the town centre and port area, where approximately 2,630 bombs and 31,000 incendiaries killed 631 people and wounded a further 1,882. At Highfield, precautions against enemy attack included nine air raid shelters, blast walls and several static water tanks, with a fire truck standing by for the twenty-four hour fire patrol. Inevitably, the College suffered some damage; in 1940 an incendiary bomb set fire to one of the First World War huts, Highfield Hall received widespread blast damage on two occasions in 1941, South Stoneham House was damaged when bombs fell nearby and on 15 May 1944 the most serious damage was caused when a bomb landed close to the Zoology and Geology Building. Rumour had it that the exhibits from the Geology Museum were swept up with the rest of the rubble.

University College, Southampton A.R.P. Handbook (1941) [Univ. Coll. LF 785.8]

The war saw the College expand. It was urged to take as many undergraduates in science and engineering as possible, courses being reduced to two years, the maximum period of deferment prior to call-up and the period for which new Government bursaries were awarded. At the same time the number of technical students taking certificate and diploma courses also increased. The marine engineering courses and those of the new School of Radio-Telegraphy, which supplied engineers and wireless operators to the Merchant Navy, were particularly important in the war effort. Officers, British and Polish were trained at the Department of Navigation, based at South Stoneham House. In a new departure, training was also provided for the armed services, 2,146 trainees having participated in courses by July 1942. The College was also one of only four university institutions to host intensive six month cadet courses for the Royal Air Force.

Teaching a three year course in two years placed a heavy burden on staff in some departments but in others student numbers fell, with Law and Theology closing. A demand for adult education kept many staff busy. The bulk of the work, undertaken alongside the Workers’ Educational Association, proved to be in providing lectures, short courses and classes on a range of subjects to members of the armed forces stationed locally. By 1943/44 the combined number of extra-mural civilian and service students reached 2,864.

Key members of staff were seconded to the war effort, including Professor Betts of History who advised the BBC on Czech broadcasting, Professor Cave-Browne-Cave of Engineering who went to the Ministry of Home Security as Director of Camouflage, whilst Dr Zepler of Physics moved to the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge. Research directly related to the war continued, including methods of water recovery for desert vehicles, design of assault bridges, equipment for testing gyro navigation instruments and investigations related to poison gases and defence against their use.

New Engineering Building [MS1/Phot/ 22/5/1 p.14]

With all this activity, pressure on space increased and the College was fortunate in having been allowed to complete the new Engineering Building in 1939 and the Union and Refectory in 1940. Wartime spirit saw temporary accommodation offered to others, including the Southampton Food Office and staff from Supermarine, who were housed briefly in the old Refectory and the Geography Hut when the Woolston factory was bombed in September 1940. Halls of residence welcomed, amongst others, French soldiers after Dunkirk, students from University College, London and nurses bombed out of the Royal South Hants Hospital.

The new Union and Refectory Building c.1941 [MS1/Phot/11/4]

For students, the war brought intensive study and a more restricted life. Male students on full-time courses were required to join the Senior Training Corps or the University Air Squadron, the teaching day being extended to accommodate the STC’s daily lunchtime parade. Pressure on time led some student societies to close, whilst travel difficulties affected sporting fixtures. One unforeseen effect of the war was the sanctioning of the first mixed hall of residence, when shortage of space saw men admitted to the women’s Highfield Hall.

Entertainments continued as far as possible, although the Annual Report of 1941 noted ‘considerable feeling’ in the Union about dances ending at 8.30. Presumably this did not apply to the dance held to mark the end of the war which Senate ‘very kindly consented to  … as the most pleasant way of celebration.’

Senior Training Corps on parade outside the Union [MS1/2/4/11]

Many students had contributed directly to the war effort by working with the A.R.P., the Women’s Voluntary Service and Southampton Information Service, where they acted as messengers, drivers, typists and loud-speaker van announcers. Students had also raised funds for the International Student Service which was engaged in relief work with refugee students and prisoners of war. Some twenty-three refugee students had received free tuition at the College, a Committee having been set up in February 1939 to provide assistance to refugee scholars.

Sixty-eight of those who passed through the College prior to armed service lost their lives in the conflict. They are commemorated on the War Memorial Tablet, unveiled by Sir Samuel Gurney-Dixon, Chairman of Council,  on 7th November 1948.

Sir Samuel Gurney-Dixon unveiling the War Memorial Tablet,  University of Southampton Press Cuttings v.2 [Rare Books Univ. Coll. LF 787.62]

As an institution, University College, Southampton had had ‘a good war’ and was certainly in a better financial  position in 1945 than it had been in 1939. Revenue from student fees, a bequest from Professor Lyttel of History and an increase in the County Council grant meant that at the end of war its deficit had decreased from a pre-war figure of £39,000 to £14,000.

The College’s post-war success owed much to forward planning. A 1942 publication, Looking Forward Looking Back, spoke of its aspirations as an educational institution – the importance of independent work in laboratory and library, the need to avoid increases in tuition fees and of promoting a ‘corporate life’ based on knowledge and understanding of the aims and objects of the College. In contrast, The Needs of University College Southampton in the Post-War Period (1944) gave a list of objectives, costed and divided into three phases. The first would see a general strengthening of academic departments, the acquisition of land, extensions to existing buildings, a new Assembly Hall and new Chemistry building, and would require capital expenditure of £258,110. Later phases would bring additional staff, further development of the Highfield site and more halls of residence.

With these ambitious plans, the College found itself pushing against an open door in terms of Government support. There was a scheme of further education for ex-service personnel, a policy of increasing the number of graduates, especially in science and engineering, and financial support available for such activities.

Sir Robert Wood  [MS1/Phot/39/ph 3125]

In 1946 the Principal, Kenneth Vickers, retired and was replaced by Sir Robert Wood, a civil servant, whose skills were well suited to the new era. When the University Grants Committee (which on a visit had commented on the poor accommodation and extremely low academic salaries) requested a statement of needs and proposals, the College was ready with its plan. The number of full-time undergraduates would increase to 1,000 to 1,300 (the current figure being 586) and the related building programme would require £650,000-£700,000 in capital expenditure.

The proposals ultimately proved too ambitious in post-war Britain, but during the next three years the College did receive around £360,000 in capital grants allowing it to achieve many of its goals. It acquired the disused brickfield behind the Union and Refectory Building and the Glen Eyre Estate at Bassett, earmarked for halls of residence. The new Assembly Hall was completed by March 1949, the Institute of Education Building being finished later the same year as were the first student houses at Glen Eyre. The new Chemistry Building was opened in stages between 1948 and 1952.

View of Glen Eyre Wessex News (1st November, 1949) [Univ. Coll. per LF 789.9]

Steps were taken to improve academic departments in part by reducing the number of technical courses and freeing staff time for university work. From the session of 1947/48 basic courses were transferred to Southampton Education Authority, leading to a reduction in number of technical students, which in 1946/7 had stood at almost 3,000 compared with 586 undergraduates.

The College had received a special commendation for its contribution to the war effort in terms of electronics and radio-technology and in 1947 Electronics was recognised as a department in its own right. In 1949, Dr Zepler, who returned from Cambridge after the war, became the department’s first Professor. Both Philosophy and Geography became independent departments, whilst those of Law and Theology were revived. The social sciences faculty envisaged by Professor Percy Ford came closer to realisation with the introduction of courses in public administration, accountancy and social work. The College also became home to the new Institute of Education which was to provide for the organisation of the teacher training in the area, in cooperation with the local education authorities and training colleges.

Institute of Education Building [MS/1/ Phot/22/5/1 p.16]

By 1948, the number of undergraduates had grown from a pre-war figure of 325 to 892. Despite South Stoneham reverting to a men’s hall of residence on the Department of Navigation’s move to Warsash, the College could no longer accommodate its students and by 1947 appeals for approved lodgings for 300 students had to be made in the local press.

Student societies thrived, the Dramatic and Choral being two of the most successful. The session of 1948/49 saw the new Assembly Hall in use for a production of Twelfth Night, as a venue for the Debating Society and for badminton, gym and boxing. Wessex News, which had ceased publication in June 1944, was revived in 1946 carrying all the news of student life.

1947/48 brought the revival of the College Rag – suspended in 1930 for being too riotous. The Rag Procession of around 700 students took place on 10 February 1948, other highlights being the ‘Gaslight Gaieties’ show on the Royal Pier, a Rag Ball and the Goblio, a rag magazine, full of jokes which have not necessarily stood the test of time. After this, Rag once again became a regular event.

Goblio (1949) [Univ. Coll. per LF 789.9]

Goblio (1948) [Univ. Coll. per LF 789.9]

At the end of 1940s the College’s past lingered in the ‘shanty-town’ of First World War huts which remained at Highfield but the new redbrick buildings were a sign of progress. In June 1949 Sir Robert Wood achieved a major breakthrough in the quest for independent University status, when London University agreed to a ‘special relationship’ between the two institutions. This allowed College staff, appointed by London, to cooperate in setting and marking exams in order to establish academic standards prior to Southampton awarding its own degrees. Following the agreement, degrees were conferred for the first time, not in London but in Southampton, at the Presentation Day held at the Guildhall on 5 November 1949.

Find out how ‘the College’ became ‘the University’ next month as we reach the 1950s.

Article on the importance of Presentation Day by Sir Robert Wood Wessex News 1st November 1949 [Univ. Coll. per LF 789.9]

Many digitised sources for the history of the University are available at Internet Archive

The Gertrude Long collection

The Special Collections is delighted to have acquired a new collection of material that sheds further light on the University as a war hospital. This follows the recent exhibition My War, My Story in the Special Collections Gallery in late 2018, that included a notebook of Gertrude Long from her time as a laboratory assistant at the Hospital.

Gertrude Long (2nd from right at back) and colleagues

Gertrude Long (2nd from right at back) and colleagues [MS101/8 A4303/1/2/2]

Gertrude Long, along with her sister, were members of the Volunteer Aid Detachments (or VADs) who provided various auxiliary as well as nursing support at the University War Hospital. Born in Campton Pauncefoot, Somerset, in 1892, Gertrude Long worked in the capacity of chief laboratory assistant at the Hospital from June 1916 until March 1919. She was to continue working in laboratories for the remainder of her career. Captain William Fletcher, RAMC, the pathologist, who is featured in the photograph above, highly rated her organisational ability and credited her with ensuring that the work at Southampton ran more smoothly than in any other laboratory in which he had worked.

Certificate granted to Gertrude Long in recognition of her services during the war [MS101/8 A4303/2/7]

Certificate granted to Gertrude Long in recognition of her services during the war [MS101/8 A4303/2/7]

The new collection, which contains numerous photographs of the staff and patients, provides a valuable new resource that documents the work at the University War Hospital during the First World War.

Work at Hospital Laboratory [MS101/8 A4303/1/3/2]

Work at Hospital Laboratory [MS101/8 A4303/1/3/2]

The University War Hospital was only a ten-minute run from the docks and designated VAD staff met each ship and were responsible for the process of disembarkation and transportation of the wounded to the hospitals in Southampton. A number of women VADs were part of the team who drove ambulances transporting the patients to the War Hospital.

VAD driver with one of the Red Cross ambulances used to transport patients [MS101/8 A4303/1/29]

VAD driver with one of the Red Cross ambulances [MS101/8 A4303/1/29]

Professional nurses employed by the Hospital were assisted by VAD nurses who did much of the less technical tasks in caring for the patients. The work was extremely hard and nursing staff generally worked shifts of up to 12 hours. The Hospital facilities could be cramped and rather spartan.

Wounded being treated at the University War Hospital [MS101/8 A4303/1/35]

Wounded being treated at the University War Hospital [MS101/8 A4303/1/35]

With the original buildings for the University College soon unable to house the quantity of wounded that were being sent for treatment, a number of wooden huts were built to the rear of the main buildings to act as wards.

Sister Paling and patients from hut 13 [MS101/8 A4303/1/28]

Sister Paling and patients from Hut 13 [MS101/8 A4303/1/28]

The wounded treated at the Hospital came from units drawn from across the UK and from overseas. The photograph below is signed from the “New Zealand rowdies, Hut 1”.

New Zealand soldiers treated at the University War Hospital [MS101/8 A4303/1/54]

New Zealand soldiers treated at the University War Hospital [MS101/8 A4303/1/54]

The cessation of hostilities in November 1918 did not mean that the Highfield site immediately stopped functioning as a hospital. The buildings were not formally handed back to the University until well into 1919, making 2019 the centenary of the move of the University to the Highfield campus. Special Collections will be posting monthly blogs documenting the development of University life at Highfield from 1919 onwards. Look out for the first of these later this month.

They came from near and far to do their patriotic duty – staffing the University War Hospital

Staff at the University War Hospital [MS 1/Phot/39 ph3104]

Staff at the University War Hospital, 1918 [MS1/Phot/39 ph3104]

11 November 2018 marks the centenary of the end of the First World War. To commemorate this, we take a look at the contribution of the staff of the University War Hospital at the Highfield campus site.

Under the command of Dr Lauder, who had been the Medical Officer for Health for Southampton, the Hospital was staffed by professional nurses and members of the Volunteer Aid Detachments (known as VADs). As well as nursing, VADs also worked in a range of auxiliary capacities from driving ambulances bringing the wounded to the Hospital, to laboratory assistants, clerks, cooks, housemaids and laundresses.

With the start of the war, Southampton hospitals recruited every nurse, VAD and others who could be spared from auxiliary hospitals in the surrounding counties. But as the war progressed, the need for further staff increased.  Gwynnedd Lloyd, a friend of the daughters of Dr Lauder, was considered too young as a 17 year-old to volunteer in 1914. However, in the aftermath of the battle of the Somme, she was invited to join the VADs and to work at the University War Hospital.

The VADs lacked the training and skill of the professional nurses and tended to perform duties that were less technical. As a new VAD, Gwynnedd Lloyd noted that her duties consisted of “making beds and waiting on sister” as well as taking trolleys around and twice a day collecting rubbish. But as time went on, with the flow of the wounded into the hospitals and the demands it placed on the staff, the line between the professional and the volunteer became far less distinct, leading to recognition that the VAD and nurse differed little beyond the level of training. Gwynnedd Lloyd was assigned to assist with one of the hutted wards at the Hospital and even as a relatively untrained VAD was expected to cover shifts of around 10 hours.

Hutted ward decorated for Christmas, c.1915 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3108]

Hutted ward decorated for Christmas, c.1915 [MS1/Phot/39 ph 3108]

The women who volunteered as VADs saw their work as a patriotic duty and a useful contribution to the war effort. Whilst some were local to Southampton, others who served as nursing staff at the University War Hospital came from all across the UK, the Channel Islands, Ireland and Canada. It is estimated that somewhere in the region of 4,500 Irish women served as VADs during the war effort, and amongst the staff of the University War Hospital were women from a number of Irish counties including Counties Kilkenny, Limerick, Longford and Tyrone. Canadian VADs were initially only employed in their homeland working in convalescent hospitals. However, as the war dragged on, it became apparent that they were needed overseas and the staff at the Hospital in 1918 included a number of nurses from New Brunswick in Canada.

Amongst the ranks of the VADs were not only nurses, but a myriad of auxiliary roles such as orderlies, stretcher bearers, clerks, cooks, housemaids and laundresses. Most of the women who served in these roles tended to be from the local area. Fanny Street and her two friends, Jennie Ford and Ethel Taylor, who feature in current Special Collections exhibition My War, My Story, were from Southampton. All three worked in the laundry of the University War Hospital for the whole duration, with Fanny Street becoming the Head Laundress by 1917.

Fanny Street (centre) with her fellow VADs Jennie Ford and Ethel Taylor

Fanny Street (centre) with her fellow VADs Jennie Ford and Ethel Taylor [MS416/13]

And we find that members of the same family all worked together at the hospital. Three members of the Trodd family from Southampton and members of the Bailey family from Eastleigh worked as maids and cooks. Annie and Hettie Needham from St. Denys were both employed as clerks. And Barbara and Gertrude Long, who lived in Freemantle, worked as a clerk and a laboratory assistant respectively. The Archives holds a notebook and three scientific reports kept by Gertrude Long during her time at the Hospital (MS101/8).

Notebook of lab assistant Gertrude Long [MS101/8]

Notebook of lab assistant Gertrude Long [MS101/8]

And so, as we come to the centenary of the end of the First World War, we remember all those who made a contribution, not least the young women who, in some cases, crossed an ocean to help staff the War Hospital here at the University.

Florence Nightingale, nursing and the Crimean War

In 1825 Henry Holmes, agent for the third Viscount Palmerston reported to his master:

Embley has been sold to a Mr. Nightingale from Derbyshire. He is related by marriage to Mr. Carter the MP for Portsmouth and married to a daughter of William Smith, MP for Norwich.

Embley Park in East Wellow, near Romsey, was a stone’s throw from Palmerston’s Broadlands estate. William and Frances Nightingale moved in with their two young daughters, Parthenope, and Florence who would have been 5 at the time of the purchase.

Watercolour of the entrance into the Walis Orchard from the gate of the Forest Lodge, Embley [Cope Collection cq 91.5 EMB]

William was an enlightened man.  He stood as a Whig candidate for Andover, supported the Reform Bill and moved in the same circles as his neighbour, Palmerston.  In 1830 he wrote asking to see his speech on the “Catholic question” [i.e. Emancipation]. [BR113/12/5].  William seconded Palmerston’s candidacy for his Romsey seat in 1830 and they hunt and shot together. 

William chose to tutor his daughter Florence at home, something which was unusual for the period.  Florence felt her vocation in life to be nursing but her family, particularly her mother, were unsupportive.  However, in 1853 she became superintendent to the Institution for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen in Distressed Circumstances in London.  Her father had granted her a generous allowance of £500 a year to enable her to take up this position and she impressed everyone with her skills as a nurse and organiser.

Sketch of “Miss Florence Nightingale, the Soldier’s Friend” drawn by Elston, and published by Ellis,1856 [Cope Collection cq 95 NIG]

The Crimean War broke out in March 1854.  The public were appalled by the reports of inadequate nursing of wounded soldiers and the secretary of state at war, Sidney Herbert, was held accountable.  Florence Nightingale was close friends with Sidney and his wife, (Mary) Elizabeth since a meeting a few years previously and thus, on 21 October 1854, she was sent out to the Crimea, with a staff of 38 nurses.  It was during this period that Florence Nightingale began her pioneering work in modern nursing.

After her return from the Crimea, Florence focused on her sanitary and statistical work.  We have three letters she sent to her Hampshire neighbour Palmerston while he was Prime Minister. In May 1862 she writes concerning a reorganisation of the War Office a started by her late friend Sidney Herbert:

This plan ensured direct responsibility in the hands of all departments instead of shifting unstable responsibility hitherto the curse of W.O. administration.

[MS 62 Broadlands Archives GC/NI/5]

The following year she contacts Palmerston again, having been “thinking all night on this matter” [Herbert’s sanitary reforms] in which she is “deeply interested.” [MS 62 Broadlands Archives GC/NI/7]. 

The Crimean War had highlighted the need for an additional hospital.  A site at Netley, on the Southampton Water, was chosen for ease of landing invalids direct from the transport ships.  The plans for the hospital had been made and building started before Nightingale returned from the Crimea.  She wrote a report regarding what she considered to be fundamental flaws in its construction, lighting and ventilation, suggesting alternatives, but Lord Panmure, the [Secretary of state for War / Secretary at War], was unresponsive.  She therefore went over his head to the Prime Minister, her Lord Palmerston but the hospital was built following the original plans.

The Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley. Taken from The Leisure Hour, April 1833 [Cope Collection c NET 45]

Another influential friend of Nightingale’s was Inspector-General Maclean, a Professor of Military Medicine at the Netley Military Hospital.  Here we find a link with the University as Maclean gave the Hartley Institution – a forerunner to the University –  help and counsel in the later nineteenth century.

The University has a long affinity with the health sciences.  In 1894, the Institution was recognised by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons as a place of instruction for students preparing for their first medical examination.  It was not until 1982 that some 20 students joined the University as the first cohort for a nursing degree.  A new school of Nursing and Midwifery was formed in 1995 by the amalgamation of the NHS College of Nursing and Midwifery with the exiting nursing group in the Faculty of Medicine.  Nursing at the University is now ranked 9th in the world and third in the UK according to the QS World Rankings by Subject 2018.

The Nightingale Building on the Highfield Campus which houses the School of Nursing and Midwifery [MS 1 University Collection Phot/19/352]

Florence’s Nightingale’s achievements in the field of nursing are commemorated on campus by the Nightingale Building which opened in September 2000 to house School of Nursing and Midwifery.