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Second World War, 1939-1945

War damage to East Block of Main Building, 19 February 1944 (Ref: Q/PH2/1)War damage to East Block of Main Building, 19 February 1944 (Ref: Q/PH2/1)The session 1938-39 at King’s College of Household and Social Science opened in the midst of an international crisis and ended in a period of active preparation for war, with the evacuation of the College to University College, Cardiff in 1939.

Following the move, parts of the College and Hostel buildings at Campden Hill were requisitioned by the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service), whilst other sites within the campus were utilised by the Admiralty for a section of the WRNS. From 1940 virtually the entire building was requisitioned by the Ministry of Works for the accommodation of Gibraltarian refugees.

The College was twice struck by enemy action; on one occasion a high explosive bomb fell on the north-east corner of the building, demolishing the staircase and damaging the Physics and Biology departments, and on another a portion of enemy aircraft crashed into the kitchen laboratory, damaging both this room and the adjoining parapet. In the approach to D-Day the College received significant attention from German raiders under the mistaken impression, it was rumoured, that the building housed General Eisenhower’s headquarters. Serious damage was incurred on 19 February 1944, when a direct hit from a high-explosive bomb demolished almost the entire East Front of the building, and damaged the remaining three sides of the quadrangle. The bomb resulted in total destruction of the new Physics department, the library, the Courthauld Hall, and administrative offices.

King's College of Household and Social Science during evacuation to Leicester, 1940-41 (Ref: Q/PH1/33)King's College of Household and Social Science during evacuation to Leicester, 1940-41 (Ref: Q/PH1/33)In 1940, with the Dutch, Belgian and French coast lines falling into enemy hands, Cardiff appeared a more vulnerable situation than had previously been supposed and the College relocated to Leicester. The contribution of College staff to war work, both in Cardiff and Leicester was considerable. In Cardiff, Professor Mottram of the Physiology Department delivered many lectures and addresses on dietetics both in Cardiff and the surrounding area, and served on educational and nutritional committees.

He was also responsible for the drafting of a report upon which the British Medical Association’s publication ‘The Doctor tells you what to eat in war-time’ was based, and contributed introductions to local publications on war-time cookery. In Leicester Miss Proctor, of the Hygiene and Bacteriology Department, acted as Medical Officer in Charge of a Ministry of Health War Nursery for infants and young children evacuated from London without their families. Miss Dillon and Dr Andrewes of the Physics Department assisted colleagues at Leicester in the provision of an intensive two month Radio Course for men preparing for commissions in HM Forces.

MStudents undertaking war work, 'Leicester Mercury', 24 Feb 1943 (Ref: Q/PC1/3)Students undertaking war work, 'Leicester Mercury', 24 Feb 1943 (Ref: Q/PC1/3)iss Hewitt acted as Commandant for the Leicester Company of the Girls Training Corps, whose object was to provide general training for National Service to girls aged between 16 and 18 years, and both Miss Dillon and Dr Esdaile lectured at Leicestershire and Rutland Women’s Institute on post-war reconstruction. A significant role was also played by Miss Tress, who had been employed in the Household Arts Department since 1924, and resigned during the war to take up employment in the Ministry of Food, where she organised a nationwide propaganda campaign and was promoted to Head of the Food Education Division.

Throughout the war, numerous College staff gave lectures to the ATS under the auspices of the Leicester Regional Committee for Adult Education in HM Forces. Staff also served as Air Raid Wardens, took duty at First Aid posts, drove ambulances, manned Red Cross stations, and assisted with WVS activities. A rota of College students worked at Red Cross ATS canteens during evenings throughout 1940-41, and a scheme of war work in connection with the trimming of respirator tubes on gas masks was also carried out; by 1943 every student in the College was devoting two hours per week to some form of war work.

For more war-time images, see our gallery.

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