For more than 30 years now I have walked past the Goldsmiths’ memorial to those students and staff killed in the First and Second World Wars of the 20th century and have been finding out about the lives these names and initials represent.
Goldsmiths memorial to alumni (staff and students) who died while in service during the First and Second World Wars. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London
Their achievements and sacrifices are truly humbling.
Their loss left grieving and unutterable sadness.
The sound of the crack of a hockey stick against ball whenever the game is played on what is now the College Green bordered by the Professor Stuart Hall, Ian Gulland and Richard Hoggart main buildings summons up the memory of one of them.
He was Percy Thomas Rothwell and would go on to play Hockey for England.
When he was a student teacher at Goldsmiths between 1931 and 1933 he was known as ‘Jinks’ and while there he fell in love with fellow student teacher Dorothy Ellen Lord who was known by her nickname ‘Bill.’
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M. McCullick’s ‘Barrage Balloon backfield’ dated 1942 but still including the former Chapel tower which had been largely knocked down by a balloon removed from its moorings by a storm in October 1939.
This country and most of the world is at war with an invisible (to the eye) virus.
And most of the academics and students have been evacuated to their homes to work- apart from a skeleton group of staff providing basic services and looking after the buildings.
These are unprecedented times. We have to wind back the clock of history to September 1939 and the outbreak of World War Two for a comparison.
Goldsmiths had to carry out a complex, stressful and devastatingly disruptive exile to Nottingham University which lasted for seven years.
A sketch of fashion recommendations for Goldsmiths’ College students in The Smith magazine for Easter 1939. Image: Goldsmiths Archives
Many of the fashion conscious students soon had to surrender their individuality for the drab constancy of uniforms and make do and mend.
Not everyone left. A small group of Art School tutors and their students worked and lived through the Blitz and ravages of World War.
The College was never the same again.
Sights, sounds, culture and life familiar in 1939 would be lost and when there was a return in 1946, Goldsmiths, and indeed British Society, would be so different.
This three part series tells the story of evacuation, exile and return.
We begin with the crisis of a war of arms and not pestilence being declared Sunday 3rd September 1939.
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A composite of 13 images of Goldsmiths’ College on one postcard in November 1914
It’s the first autumn going into the winter of the Great War in 1914.
A first year 18-year-old student at Goldsmiths’ College called Wilfrid sends a composite postcard with 13 different images to a Mrs Hinchliff in South Yorkshire.
We know not whether she was a guardian, family friend, or somebody more intimate.
She may have been Wilfrid’s mentor and former teacher who helped him believe in himself and encouraged him to pursue Higher Education and a career in teaching.
The tone begins formally “Dear Mrs Hinchliff […] This card gives you some idea of the College.’
Wilfrid’s postcard ends with ‘with best wishes, and kindest regards’ (and) ‘yours very sincerely.’
What is there to read in this early twentieth century equivalent of an email or instagram sent to a married woman with the address of a small colliery worked by about 30 miners, near Sheffield, which is then diverted by the Post Office to a hotel?
What would become of Wilfrid in the ghastly carnage of the First World War that gobbled up young volunteers and conscripts like him in what became industrialised slaughter?
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The men staff and students of the Goldsmiths’ Training Department 1907. William Thomas Young is the lecturer sitting centre of the front row, 7th from left and right.
One day in the middle of July 1917 a telegram boy delivered the message to Mrs Hilda Young that her husband, Lieutenant William Thomas Young, had been killed in action.
It is impossible to imagine the shock and grief of such news; particularly when she was caring for their infant daughter, Diana, born just over a year before.
He had been blown up by shell fire on the 12th of July while serving with number 12 Heavy Battery, the Royal Garrison Artillery during the battle of Passchendaele.
It was also the first day the German Army had deployed mustard gas.
He was 36-years-old and had been hailed as one of the country’s most promising scholars of English Literature.
He had been lecturer in English at the University of London, Goldsmiths’ College since September 1906 and he was also Joint Editor of the prestigious Cambridge Anthologies.
Goldsmiths’ women students and staff 1905-7. Three of the men, including the Warden, William Loring and Vice Principal Thomas Raymont still managed to ‘inveigle’ themselves into the frame. You can see them standing at the back to the far left and right.
Three of his books, poetry during the age of Shakespeare, the poetry of Robert Browning, and a ‘Primer of English Literature’ had been published by Cambridge University Press and formed the core of the English syllabus in schools and colleges throughout the country.
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Officers of the 88th Regiment. Crimean War by Roger Fenton. Image: US Library of Congress, Public Domain.
Six young men educated in the corridors and rooms of the Richard Hoggart main building died a variety of horrible deaths between 1854 and 1855.
They were killed in the biggest clash of the superpowers of the Victorian Age.
This is the secret history of Goldsmiths’ Crimean War heroes.
They were students of the Royal Naval School, which occupied the neo-Wren style building designed by John Shaw Jr. between 1844 and 1889.
Sports Day on playing fields of Royal Naval School, New Cross. Image: Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 4th August 1883
The story of the Royal Naval School is as chaotic and ‘finger-tips on the cliff-edge’ as that of the College.
At that time what we now know as the Great Hall was a large quadrangle open to the sky where the likes of cadet pupils, Edward Carrington, Edwin Richards, R.O. Lewis, Richard Morris, Sidney Smith Boxer, and James Murray did their parade ground drill.
The teaching rooms off the ground floor corridors are where they were taught mathematics, technical drawing, navigation and the classics.
And the corridors and ante-rooms on the first floors of the current main building are where they slept in hammocks sometimes looking out of the large windows at a clear night sky filled with the Milky Way.
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