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The last time Goldsmiths was evacuated- 1939. Part One: Get Thee to Nottingham!

M. McCullick’s watercolour ‘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.

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.

Prime-Minister Neveille Chamberlain and Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax outside Downing Street after the declaration of war 3rd September 1930. Image: Daily Sketch

Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax outside Downing Street after the declaration of war 3rd September 1939. Image: Daily Sketch

To Nottingham and the pantechnicon evacuation
When Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain broadcast his regretful and sad declaration of war by radio on Sunday 3rd September 1939, Goldsmiths’ College had already planned to evacuate most of its staff, students and equipment to University College Nottingham.

It was anticipated that most of the students would be women and a large proportion of the men would be called up through conscription into the armed services.

The mood of the student writing in The Smith June edition for the summer of 1939 was sombre:

Editorial: ‘The male section of this community, and this concerns future members- up to the next war, will soon be tasting of conscription, a source of controversy and a savoury topic for the “politicians.” Military training and training received at College are poles apart. Whether or no the student character will change as a result remains to be seen’ (The Smith Summer 1939:6).

A poem by a student described as ‘Tex’ was ‘Written on the horrors of the Spanish Civil War’ which had ended in defeat for the Republicans and the pathetic scenes of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing over the border to France:

She plodded through the filth and slime,
The refs of the gutter,
In the footsteps of her Master.
Please (God?) she died, forgot her shame,
She was my love, my Spain !’ (ibid 10)

This cartoon in Goldsmiths College student magazine The Smith for Spring 1938 pokes gentle fun at a recent publication by staff of their book ‘Actuality in Education’ and references the ritual of compulsory morning assembly with the enjoyment some women students said they derived from observing men students doing physical education classes in the quadrangle in their distinctive track-suits with ‘G’ sewn onto their backs.

This cartoon in Goldsmiths’ College student magazine The Smith for Spring 1938 pokes gentle fun at a recent publication by staff of their book ‘Actuality in Education’ and references the ritual of compulsory morning assembly with the enjoyment some women students said they derived from observing men students doing physical education classes in the quadrangle in their distinctive tracksuits with ‘G’ sewn onto their backs.

There were more recruits and interest in the College’s Officer Training Corps or ‘OTC’.

Corporal A. Aldred reported on the ambition, later fully realised, to fire the British Army’s formidable Bren machine gun:

Parades this term have been devoted to general drill and instruction and competition shoots. The former, carried out under the auspices of Sgt. Oldknow of the Grenadiers, have been very well attended, owing to the fact that a former rumour of our having a Bren gun has at last taken shape […] Musketry Camp this year was well attended, and the shooting results were on the whole, good. The most outstanding feature of the more serious side of the Camps was that several members were able to fire a Bren gun. But the most impressive feature for the majority was the spectacle of trooping the colours (the Sgt’s pyjamas) before our more respectable and autocratic rivals, the lads of Battersea Polytechnic (ibid 33).

Advanced History group in front of the Blomfield building in 1938. Two women students in the front row playfully mock their supposed ‘Advanced’ status by chalking on a blackboard the deliberately misspelt ‘Are they intrested in us? Who did the werk? What ave they tawt us? We don’t know. We are DULL & BACKWARD’

Advanced History group in front of the Blomfield building just before the Munich crisis in 1938. Two women students in the front row playfully mock their supposed ‘Advanced’ status by chalking on a blackboard the deliberately misspelt ‘Are they intrested in us? Who did the werk? What ave they tawt us? We don’t know. We are DULL & BACKWARD’

The Borough Council that wanted to take over and asset strip the College

Even though the negotiations for the Nottingham transfer had been completed during the Spring term of 1939 when the German Nazi regime’s full invasion of Czechoslovakia and march into Prague trampled over and rendered invalid everything agreed at Munich, the practical challenge of such an operation was utterly daunting.

The rather predatory Deptford Borough Council had designs on the facilities and spaces that the College offered for War-time civil defence.

What was being left behind in 1939. Goldsmiths’ College before Deptford Council and the RAF moved in. The back field would be ploughed up. The upper field wrecked with building projects. The Great Hall became a temporary warehouse for ‘stuff’ that needed to go to Nottingham- books, cutlery, crockery, bedding and equipment.

What was being left behind in 1939. Goldsmiths’ College before Deptford Council and the RAF moved in. The back field would be ploughed up. The upper field wrecked with building projects. The Great Hall became a temporary warehouse for ‘stuff’ that needed to go to Nottingham- books, cutlery, crockery, bedding and equipment.

The College thought it had made an agreement for the Council’s use of the building and grounds to be temporary- a short let all over with by the end of the war.

By the time Warden Arthur Dean and 29 of his staff met in the College on the 13th of September, Goldsmiths had been transformed from a place for peace-time teaching and learning into what could only be described as part military camp and an emergency centre ready for heavy rescue and disaster relief.

The upper field was a building site.

The council was constructing a first aid centre and an air raid control centre for a large area of South East London- much of it underground.

Borough Council Air Raid Precautions and local canteen workers had moved in.

The intrusion, albeit for patriotic purposes, was clumsy and rather heavy-booted.

College furniture was effectively requisitioned and, in some instances, damaged.

Nothing had been finalised about rent and liability for the Council rates.

Another art student’s caricature of life in the College in New Cross in 1939: ‘In fact one wonders why they patronised Goldsmiths.’

Over the next two years, solicitors would be consulted, counsel’s opinion sought, legal letters exchanged, and litigation threatened.

Relations would deteriorate further during the War when it became apparent that the council had ambitions to take over the whole college site permanently.

The Royal Air Force had also made themselves at home.

They ploughed up the main playing field with the installation of a Barrage balloon unit and billeted themselves in the Sports Pavilion and five rooms in the main building.

Volunteers turning up to fill sandbags, 4th September 1939. Image: Daily Sketch

Volunteers turning up to fill sandbags, 4th September 1939. Image: Daily Sketch

Balloons were intended to defend against dive bombers flying at heights up to 5,000 feet, forcing them to fly higher and into the range of concentrated anti-aircraft fire.

Anti-aircraft guns could not traverse fast enough to attack aircraft flying at low altitude and high speed.

By the middle of 1940 there were about 500 balloons operating over the London area.

The first air raid of the Second World War 3rd September 1939. Later air raids and the real thing would soon wipe the smiles from the faces of these Londoners. Image: Daily Sketch

The first air raid warning of the Second World War 3rd September 1939. Later air raid warnings and the real thing would soon wipe the smiles from the faces of these Londoners. The boxes they’re holding up are personal gas masks which government hoped would be made and distributed for every person in the population. Image: Daily Sketch

Even the College Dining Room belonged to somebody else day and night as the main canteen for all of the Borough’s A.R.P. workers.

During the summer vacation, the School of Art in the Blomfield building had been shut and bolted less anymore troops of war were tempted to find a use for it.

The headmaster, Clive Gardiner, intended to stay in New Cross and meet the expected terror of aerial bombing and fire from the sky with paintbrush and pencil.

Goldsmiths’ College School of Art taught illustration, portraiture, and encouraged their students to do caricatures of staff and students. The ‘’ists’ of 1939 could be said to be very much around in 2020. The cartoons by ’Sloo’ apparently resembled recognisable students and staff in 1939.

To borrow some of the humour of the 1970s BBC comedy series Dad’s Army, the wonderful neo-Wren main building, designed by John Shaw, had become Air Raid Warden Hodges headquarters ringing to the cry after dusk of “Put that light out!”

As the Goldsmiths’ Warden Arthur Dean and his senior management team pondered all of the indignities of their home being so invaded, they must have wondered when and how Captain Mainwaring and the New Cross equivalent of the Warmington-on-sea Home Guard platoon would turn up.

Early casualties- the old Chapel tower and jobs

To make matters worse on a stormy morning 4th October 1939, the Barrage balloon unit lost control of one of their balloons.

Untethered, the large volume of hydrogen filled cloth became a battering ram in the sky and the first object to meet its destructive force in the high wind was the pretty tower of the old Royal Naval School chapel.

It smashed into the tower, swept away the ornamental dome, and a fair part of the roof of the building, for long used as an important lecture hall, was badly damaged.

The outbreak of war meant the end of University soccer. Goldsmiths student Eustace Burn (seated far left) had been selected for the University of London’s football team for the 1938-9 season.

This means Goldsmiths College was first a casualty of ‘friendly’ or RAF ‘balloon fire’ during World War Two and not the Luftwaffe.

War meant the end of student rag weeks when they would dress up and carnivalesque style raise money for charity

War ended student rag weeks when the students would dress up, and carnivalesque style, raise money for charity on the streets of Lewisham.

When the College wrote to the Air Ministry asking for compensation it was met with obfuscation and the kind of bureaucratic gobbledygook that civil servants are most likely to indulge in if they are not sure of surviving a world war:

The Air Ministry is not in a position to authorise payment against your claim, pending the promulgation of decisions to be operated by public departments generally, upon war losses procedure (College Delegacy 1939:5).

Job cuts- all visiting lecturers, the Associate Lecturers, of today dismissed

The Monday edition of the Daily Sketch after the declaration of war quoted the King’s message ‘Stand calm, firm and united!’

The King’s Message carried in the Daily Sketch 4th September 1939 ‘Stand calm, firm and united! Meet the challenge!'

The King’s Message carried in the Daily Sketch 4th September 1939 ‘Stand calm, firm and united! Meet the challenge!’

But the need for Goldsmiths’ College to leave New Cross was divisive and devastating for a substantial number of people who depended on teaching there as their main source of income.

This was particularly so for most of the Art School’s part-time teachers.

They were all made redundant.

A total of 60 visiting lecturers were sent letters on 4th September telling them that their ‘sessional appointments’ were being terminated.

F.J. Halnon was the encouraging teacher of sculpture and modelling who mentored the Greenwich fireman, George France, to enter his work into the Royal Academy exhibition in 1931.

Halnon had been at the Art School since 1898. He had modelled the bust of the College’s first Warden William Loring.

He was the equivalent of half-time and had been so for 41 years.

This was how most artists in Britain could afford to pay the rent and put food on the table.

On the radio he heard King George VI say: ‘The task will be hard. There may be dark days ahead, and war can no longer be confined to the battlefield.’

Goldsmiths’ College Warden Arthur Edis Dean

Goldsmiths’ College Warden Arthur Edis Dean

A few days later he received a letter from the London County Council saying his battle would now be unemployment and destitution.

Warden Arthur Dean later told the College Delegacy:

The demand for Mr Halnon’s particular type of work has in recent years very much fallen off, and when the School of Art was partially re-opened the Headmaster was unable to include Mr Halnon in the very small teaching staff required. Mr Halnon’s domestic circumstances were distressing because of family illness, his income had almost entirely ceased, and he had been unable to obtain other work. He had applied to the Board of Education for a pension but, as he had never contributed to any pension scheme, the application has been refused. Moreover, he was still under 60 years of age (Delegacy 11 April 1940:7).

Arthur Dean had written to the Goldsmiths’ Company and the London County Council asking them to help, but by the time of the Delegacy meeting on 11th April 1940, there had been no reply or result.

Courses closed down and new appointments frozen

The War also meant the shutting down of the Special One-Year Course for the Training of Art Teachers and the Special Third Year Course of Physical Training for Men.

Thirty-two students had to be told that they had no courses to attend and they would have to find something else to do. All third-year courses for Certificated Teachers were having their funding withdrawn by the Board of Education (Delegacy 11 November 1939:2).

Anxiety and confusion near Downing Street. The outbreak of war meant disruption, insecurity and fear. Image: Daily Sketch.

Anxiety and confusion near Downing Street. The outbreak of war meant disruption, insecurity and fear. Image: Daily Sketch.

Goldsmiths’ had pioneered and specialised the concept and provision of training and educating teachers over three years rather than two; something that would be recognised in the 1960s and further transformation of the Teacher’s Certificate into a Bachelor of Education degree.

Two recent appointments for the posts of lecturer in Geography and Mathematics had to be told their jobs were unlikely to materialise.

Two long-standing lecturers in Latin and Physics were informed that they were now surplus to requirements.

The Daily Sketch would have a centre spread setting out the geography of war and the strength of the Allied Powers. But there would be no replacement geography lecturer to teach it.

The Daily Sketch would have a centre spread setting out the geography of war and the strength of the Allied Powers. But there would be no replacement geography lecturer at Goldsmiths’ College to teach it. Image: Daily Sketch 4th September 1939.

Support staff not going to Nottingham discovered that they had to find some other kind of war-time service.

The librarians were laid off.

While the College’s Chief Accountant, John Mansfield, stayed on in his office in the main building, his brother Alfred had to go part-time and make up his earnings doing national A.R.P service with Deptford Council.

The council had, however, agreed to continue the employment of all of ‘the house staff – porters, cleaners, stokers, kitchen workers, college workmen and electricians, and some laboratory assistants.

The Goldsmiths’ College Art Nouveau swimming pool in the summer of 1939. The summer sun streaming through the distinctive naval portal window. This is the last time it would ever be seen like this. By the autumn the water had been drained and turned off and the building prepared as an emergency mortuary for those expected to be killed in air raids.

The Artesian well to the College’s lovely Art Nouveau swimming pool was turned off and the empty pool converted into an emergency mortuary to accommodate the anticipated carnage of multiple casualties from Guernica style bombing raids.

Time to go, organising the evacuation, and infants first to Lady Norah’s

When Germany invaded Poland on the 1st September 1939, the College’s Nursery School was the first to be evacuated on that very day.

An original party of 15 children, Superintendent Miss Silcock and her assistant Audrey Burton, and seven voluntary helpers, six of them being mothers of the children, travelled to Lady Norah Howard’s House, Wappingthorn Manor, near Steyning in Sussex.

Wappingthorn Manor in 2020. Image: Google satellite

Wappingthorn Manor in the Sussex countryside in 2020. Image: Google satellite

The beautiful house and grounds were an enormous contrast to living in urban Deptford.

Two mothers and their children preferred to return to South East London by the end of November.

The remaining children were in the care of the Froebel trained Certificated teacher Miss E.M. Taylor on a salary of one pound ten shillings a week (Delegacy 11 November 1939:6).

The safety of younger children from expected heavy bombing of the cities was a national obsession.

Even though the wailing of the sirens on that sunny Sunday following the Prime Minister’s broadcast from Downing Street turned out to be a false alarm, millions of Londoners did take shelter.

Another air raid warning had sounded at 2.a.m. with the all clear signalled an hour later.

On the following day nerves were frayed and people were beginning to discover what it was like to have a daily existence with not enough sleep.

Stop press news. Sinking of the passenger liner SS Athenia- the day after War broke out. The United States also made it clear it would remain neutral.

And anyone reading their copy of the Daily Sketch would have read in the ‘Stop Press News’ that a passenger liner sailing to Canada with evacuees on board had been torpedoed.

The capital letters printed at right angles to the back-page text revealed: ‘Ministry of Information state S.S. Athenia with 1,400 passengers on board, has reported to Admiralty she had been torpedoed’ (Sketch 4 September 1939:24).

98 passengers and 19 crew had been killed in the sinking of this unarmed civilian vessel in the icy waters of the Atlantic, North West of Ireland.

Many of the victims were American and Canadian, including a ten-year-old-girl from Hamilton, Ontario.

It was the Second World War’s first war crime.

Diverting the students from New Cross to Nottingham

After the infants had gone, the College next had to contact all of its incoming and returning students to find out who was prepared to go to Nottingham.

Letters were sent out on 22nd of September.

369 out of 443 replied saying they were happy to do so.

There was not the expected fall-off in men as it had been decided not to call up 18 and 19-year-olds for service in the armed forces at this time.

Students had to make their own way there and were expected to arrive by early afternoon Tuesday 3rd of October using train services from St. Pancras and Marylebone.

It was proposed that all the women students could be accommodated at Hugh Stewart Hall in University College, Nottingham.

The men would have to be found lodgings.

All the students were advised to keep down the total amount of their personal belongings, but to bring with them a pocket torch showing a blue light.

Parting and saying goodbye September 1939. Image: Daily Sketch

Parting and saying goodbye September 1939. Image: Daily Sketch

As men were living out of lodgings, they were advised to bring their bicycles.

As there was a shortage of laundry, women students staying at Hugh Stewart Hall were told they must provide for themselves four sheets, three pillow slips, three face and bath towels, three table napkins with a ring and their regulation gas mask and box.

In these days before the National Health Service, students were advised that the cost of medical attendance in excess of four visits would have to be paid for and any students who had been in contact with infectious illness during the vacation must bring a medical certificate to show that they were free from infection’ (Delegacy 12 September 1939:3).

The contingency of war meant that men who had reached the age of 20 risked rude interruption of their studies and the conscripting despatch to the boot camp:

Men students who have already attained the age of 20 must realise that the earlier concessions about postponement of military training for students no longer apply. The Government have not yet made any clear pronouncement about this, but it is possible that such men may be called up before the end of the session or even before Christmas. The College is obviously unable to give any guarantee in this respect and cannot offer any further guidance as to individual decisions: but if men are not able to complete the 1939/40 session some refund of fees will be made (ibid).

As Goldsmiths’ College students made their way to Nottingham, the King and Queen stayed at Buckingham Palace and went out to meet Londoners on the streets.

As Goldsmiths’ College students made their way to Nottingham, the King and Queen stayed at Buckingham Palace and went out to meet Londoners on the streets. Image: Daily Sketch

Pantechnicons for the books, bedding and crockery

More than twelve pantechnicons were booked to transport the massive amounts of equipment of all kinds, including books being mustered in Deptford.

One thousand volumes were selected from the library and packed up in the Great Hall.

Around one thousand Goldsmiths’ College library books were piled up in the Great Hall for packing in boxes to go to University College, Nottingham where they were used in teaching for seven years. Given the Luftwaffe’s destruction of the library by incendiaries in 1940, their selection was an effective reprieve from becoming the collateral damage of war.

Around one thousand Goldsmiths’ College library books were piled up in the Great Hall for packing in boxes to go to University College, Nottingham where they were used in teaching for seven years. Given the Luftwaffe’s destruction of the library by incendiaries in 1940, their selection was an effective reprieve from becoming the collateral damage of war.

200 beds with bedding, followed by crockery and kitchen equipment from the Hostels filled the convoy of lorries assembling in Lewisham Way.

Goldsmiths’ lecturers travelling in advance of the students to manage the arrival of the transport lorries were pleasantly surprised at how quiet it was in Nottingham, where cleaner air and the very fine Hall of Residence in Hugh Stewart Hall were in stark contrast to the heavy and throbbing traffic on Lewisham Way, the myopic and suffocating London smogs, and the threadbare and gloomy main building first built in 1844.

No sooner had most of the staff arrived than two of them had to leave following mobilisation. The Physical Education lecturer and England Hockey international player, Percy Thomas (P.T.) Rothwell, had a commission as second lieutenant in the Tank Corps and the French lecturer Dr. Arnould was called up into the French Army.

The uncertain future

Warden Arthur Dean said September was:

…a strenuous month […] with much hurrying to and fro, vast correspondence with scattered staff and students and a great deal of physical labour over the transport of gear whenever we could lay hold of a pantechnicon’ (GCOSA Yearbook 1939-40:1-4).

In a letter to alumni he warned them that should they visit their old College in New Cross:

Warden Arthur Edis Dean- the head of Goldsmiths from 1927 to 1952

Warden Arthur Edis Dean- the head of Goldsmiths from 1927 to 1952

…you would hardly find the College exhilarating in its sandbagged and blacked-out condition. The R.A.F. occupy several rooms at the South Eastern corner and have a balloon in the grounds, and their burrowings and lorry-runnings have played havoc with the Lower Field. The Upper Field has been devastated to make a large underground A.R.P. Control Centre and large parts of the buildings are in occupation by the Deptford Borough Council for First Aid Post, and A.R.P. purposes. A day-and-night canteen for auxiliary workers in the Borough is in operation in the College Dining Hall and kitchen, where the lights have never been out since the war began’ (ibid). Arthur Dean ended his long letter with the rumination that ‘The future – particularly the immediate future – is obscure, but there will be a world to rebuild after the earthquake, and Goldsmiths’ craftsmen will have their share in that. Meanwhile, I hope we shall keep together in spirit – new Smiths’ and Old Smiths’ – and that all of you will make some effort to keep in touch (ibid).

Arthur Dean and his colleagues, the students and the alumni could be forgiven for fearing whether the College would ever be able to return to its home in New Cross.

And the horrors of a Second World War would inevitably mean that some Old Smiths’ would never be able to keep in touch when they became casualties of the conflict and new names to be carved on the College’s memorial.

Lives and futures were to be interrupted and terminated.

Future developments in British education were also paused abruptly.

The 1st September 1939 was supposed to have been the day when the school leaving age was raised to 15.

In December 1938, the findings on Secondary Education with special reference to Grammar and Technical High Schools, generally known as the Spens Report, set out a new policy of a clean break between primary and secondary education at the age of 11 and a half.

It reiterated that secondary schooling should be free to all, but also sufficiently diverse to serve a wide range of abilities.

It retrieved and hailed the late 19th Century recommendations of the Bryce Commission that there should be three types of secondary school, Grammar, Modern and Technical High.

The ideas and hopes were there, but there was no time.

And as Kenneth Richmond observed:

So far as education in this country was concerned, Hitler’s infernal genius could scarcely have chosen Der Tag with more devastating precision. The plans of Bryce and Spens went all agley. Chaos descended long before the bombs (Richmond 1945:122).

Then and now. What was different in 1939 and what was rather familiar now?

The distance in time is 81 years.

In 1939 Britain was the capital of an imperialist European power and sociologically it was class-ridden, sexist and racist.

Students hoping to be language teachers in 1939 and packing their suitcases for Nottingham would have probably bought the Daily Sketch as their newspaper of choice because it always had a page providing the news in French, English and German.

Page of the Daily Sketch 4th September 1939. The news in three languages daily.

Page of the Daily Sketch 4th September 1939. The news in three languages daily. The theme on this momentous day was ‘How we declared war on Germany.’

The Daily Sketch’s most popular strip cartoon was called Blondie and its representation of women would now be regarded as stereotypical and offensive.

Blondie strip cartoon by Chic Young. Image: Daily Sketch

Blondie by Chic Young. Image: Daily Sketch

When women joined in the civic emergency task of urgently building air raid defences, their filling of sandbags would be noticed.

‘Women have just taken up a new war-time fatigue’- presumably written by a male headline writer and sub-editor on the Daily Sketch.

‘Women have just taken up a new war-time fatigue’- Image: The Daily Sketch.

The threat and fear in September 1939 was the idea and reality of total war.

At the beginning, the British population expected terrible air-raids, mass casualties and the use by the Germans of gas and chemical warfare.

In 2020, the threat and the fear is caused by a pandemic virus and perhaps something historically last experienced during the Great Plague of 1665.

Image: Daily Sketch


In 1939 the outbreak of war would mean the closure of shops, business and services.


People would also try to leave London in addition to the large-scale evacuation of children to the countryside.

Many Londoners with second homes would skedaddle.

Large numbers of the aristocracy would depart for their mansions and country estates.

Many middle-class people with private incomes would become long-term residents in hotels in country villages, towns and seaside resorts.

Image: Daily Sketch

In 1939 the government introduced national identity cards and the developing impact of U-boat attacks on merchant shipping resulted in the introduction of rationing.

Image: Daily Sketch

Petrol was the first commodity to be controlled in 1939.

On 8th January 1940, bacon, butter and sugar were rationed.

This was followed by successive ration schemes for meat, tea, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cheese, eggs, lard, milk and canned and dried fruit.

There was recognition that farming and food yields needed to be substantially expanded.

There were plans to form a land army open to women to ensure the increase in food crops could be harvested.

On 4th September panic-buying was not so much for toilet-rolls, hand sanitiser and dried pasta, but sand for sandbags.

In 2020 there is a need for personal protection equipment on the part of health workers.

The presence of decontamination suits was not an unusual sight in 1939 since civil defence was preparing for First World War style gas attacks.

Image: Daily Sketch 4th September 1939.

One clear similarity between then and now is that police had to be deployed to enforce emergency powers.

In 1939, the police even had to deal with the welfare of the German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop’s dog that he had left behind when he returned to Berlin after his time as the German Ambassador to Britain.

The closure of London schools meant children would be at home unless being part of the evacuation scheme.

How to amuse your children when at home was certainly a theme of newspaper feature writing.

Image: Daily Sketch 4th September 1939

What was different? Apart from newspapers that substantially slimmed down to two or three folded sheets, there was only one radio station- the BBC.

The very limited schedule of hourly news bulletins, records and an excess of Sandy McPherson playing the electric theatre organ generated so much boredom, exasperation, and protest that both the BBC and the government would realise the general public needed entertainment and culture in these difficult times.

Daily Sketch 4th September 1939.

There was no television, since its early years of broadcasting from Alexandra Palace was shut down.

Cinema and newsreels would prove popular, but there were no internet services, online platforms and smartphones.

No digital video-conferencing.

Telephones yes.

A majority of the population smoked.

Aspro was the painkiller of choice; not paracetamol.

And there were many advertisements for remedies for flatulence, indigestion, and irregular bowel movements.

‘CICFA for sixpence’ did not last, but the product name was an acronym for ‘Conquers indigestion, constipation, flatulence and acidity.

‘Chilprufe’ or pure wool underwear for children would not win any marketing awards.

In 1939, scratchy, woolly underwear seemed all the rage.

Goldsmiths emptied to be re-constituted through the generous hosting of University College Nottingham.

The teaching largely remained the same. Life continued to be face to face and social.

In 2020, the retreat and dispersal physically is into the home and the digital realm.

The controls and rules of the emergency are counter-social and anti-social in the physical sphere.

In 2020 we are connected to work in multimedia cyberspace.

The switch from operating in a physical location to an online one had to be achieved in seven days.

In 1939, the College’s senior management had six months, April to September, to plan the move to the refuge of a provincial university college in Nottinghamshire.

The Second World War would fundamentally change British society after its outbreak in 1939.

The fascinating question in 2020 is whether the COVID-19 pandemic will fundamentally transform the very nature of social existence, the distance between work and home space, and the culture of Higher Educational teaching and learning.

This is the first draft of another chapter in the history of Goldsmiths, University of London.

Coming next- Part Two: Exile


Daily Sketch newspaper, 4th September 1939.

Goldsmiths’ College Old Student Association (GCOSA) Yearbook 1939-40.

Goldsmiths’ College Delegacy minutes for 1939

Goldsmiths’ College Delegacy minutes for 1940

Richmond, Kenneth W., (1945) Education In England, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books

The Smith Magazine, Goldsmiths’ College, Summer 1939.

Postcards from Goldsmiths- the equivalent of emails or instagrams in early 20th century Britain

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?

A contemporary satellite image of Hoylandswaine in Yorkshire where ‘Mrs Hinchliff’ lived. But the colliery ‘Guider Bottom’ no longer exists.

When he arrived in 1914 this group of Seniors was celebrating the completion of their two year teaching certificate courses in the Quad, which at that time was a popular meeting place for all students during lunch-time and breaks between lectures.

This photograph is so evocative because it is still possible to look out into the corner of the quadrangle and imagine them at that exact spot 105 years ago.

In shifting attention from one smiling and grinning countenance to the next the connection with past lives, personalities and all that constitutes a human being becomes so resonant.

How many of these happy young men would survive their service and experiences between 1914 to 1918?

How many would insist on becoming Conscientious Objectors and face prejudice, derision, and the punishment of military tribunals refusing to recognise and respect their pacifist beliefs?

“Jolly Good Fellows As You May See” the class of 1912-14 graduating and celebrating in the Summer of that year- only to have their teaching careers interrupted by the outbreak of global war a few weeks later. Just how many of these smiling and happy faces did not live to see the end of the First World War?

If Wilfrid was beginning his first term in 1914, the mobilising of the College’s officer training corps (OTC) would have been ever-present as is evident in this cartoon in the College’s magazine Goldsmithian.

“Smiths as Tommies”- Cartoon of increasing encroachment of army life to new students to Goldsmiths like Wilfrid in the autumn of 1914.

In the editorial for the college magazine published only a few weeks after Wilfrid sent his postcard to Mrs Hinchliff, he would have read this sobering editorial:

Smiths! We are at the end of the first term of yet another year- possibly the most momentous in our Island story. We are anticipating the vacation which should usher in a season of Peace and Goodwill. Alas! our ears are deafened by the booming of cannon, the clash of steel, and the lamentation of war-stricken nations. Many old familiar faces have left us to answer their country’s call:- we think with pride of the Warden who heads our list.

The Warden, Captain William Loring,  who welcomed Wilfrid and all the other first year students that autumn, would never return to the College.

He died after being shot by a Turkish sniper at Gallipoli one year later.

Another leading member of staff named above the editorial, William Thomas Young, a popular Lecturer in English, would be killed in artillery fire on the Western Front in 1917.

The pictorial side of Wilfrid’s postcard provides an evocative composite slideshow of what Goldsmiths looked like before the First World War. The sequence of 13 photographs in columns of four, three, three and three (left to right) can also be seen as the equivalent of an instant online Youtube video.

First Column

There are four photographs.

Beginning with a view of the outside of the College main building before 1914 from where Costa Coffee is now situated.

Then the college green looking at the back of the current Richard Hoggart main building with male and female students in Edwardian dress. The viewpoint position is from the current path just before it gets to the tennis courts.

The tennis courts pre 1914 were situated in the quadrangle currently between the main refectory and lecture-rooms off Kingsway corridor.

The fourth image is the Great Hall with the magnificent organ in its original Art Nouveau design and the dais dressed in flowers for some ceremonial occasion and the floor crammed with chairs.

The viewpoint is from the doors entering from what is now reception.

Second Column

The college library in those days was situated on the second and third floor of the main building, mainly to the north eastern side parallel to what is now Dixon Road.

The photograph depicts a woman student seated poring over books and a man standing somewhat furtively behind watching her.

Is he a librarian about to tell her of a book he’s found for her, or an admirer who wants to invite her to tea?

What is described as the Dining Room, wonderfully laid out with white table cloths on the trestle tables, carafes of water, vases of flowers and cutlery is the current Cafe 35 and the viewpoint is from where Chartwells staff would see you ordering your cappuccino and croissant.

The far wall seen there would now extend beyond the walls of one or two rooms partitioned in the current structure, and what you see as a huge carved coat of arms has been replaced in 2019 with Josh Drewe’s mural on the history of Goldsmiths and its surrounding community.

The outline of the carving looks like Goldsmiths’ College coat of arms with the Latin motto Justitia Virtutum Regina– ‘Justice Is Queen of Virtues’ seen below.

Recollecting the Goldsmiths’ motto of all those years ago seems so relevant in 2019 when the University has inaugurated its first law degree.

Goldsmiths’ College coat of arms with the motto ‘Justitia Virtutum Regina- Justice Is Queen Of Virtues.

The third bottom image in this column is a picture of ‘an art room’ and looks like one of the current ground floor lecture-rooms at the back of the current main building perhaps with windows looking out onto the back field (now called the Green).

Third Column

At the top we begin with ‘The Nature Study Room’- now likely to be another current lecture-room probably on the ground floor with tall windows looking out onto the back field.

No signs of wild-life in the picture, or fauna and flora exhibits.  Perhaps nature was more of a theoretical consideration.

The following images in this column are quaintly described as the Women’s Common Room and the Men’s Common Room.

It is possible to detect how they have been gender-valued in interior design and furniture.

In the men’s room there is a huge snooker/billiard table, and there are pictures on the wall seemingly of sports teams etc. The chairs are solid and hard-backed.

There are rugs on the floor perhaps ready to accommodate an impromptu wrestling match to settle old scores.

In contrast the women’s room is full of soft furnishing, table covers, cut flowers in vases, and the pictures on the walls seemingly portraits of high women achievers in staff and student faculty from the past.

Some of the chairs are soft cane-backed.

Fourth Column

We start with the gymnasium then situated where the current main College refectory is.

It’s full of large gymnastic and exercise contraptions built to stretch the human frame to breaking point and there’s a burly ‘tough guy’ with moustache apparently dressed in fencing regalia.

Next something labelled as ‘The Museum’- full of models and objets-d’art.

As a historian one wonders what treasures lay on the tables and shelves here and regret the fact that Goldsmiths no longer has any museum.

Though it could be argued that Special Collections in the Library is certainly its equivalent with its regularly held exhibitions from the archives and unique holdings such as the Women’s Art Library, Goldsmiths Textile Collection and Constance Howard Gallery, and the Daphne Oram Archive.

The last image in Column Four is of the College’s beautiful Art Nouveau swimming pool largely constructed out of wood and fine carpentry.

It was created for the Recreative and Technical Institute from 1891 and sadly was burned down during World War Two and never reconstructed.

Its location was behind the George Wood theatre and Drama and Performance suite of buildings.

It was situated at right angles to the main building and would have been accessed via the main corridor.

What’s so lovely about the photograph is the sun streaming through the huge naval style port-hole window, and the spectators leaning over the balconies.

The changing cubicles can be seen running on either side of the pool.

Jim Bartlett’s postcard sent to his father in 1928 is a picture of the College most probably from 1905.

In November 1928, trainee teacher Jim Bartlett is just settling in to his studies and life at Goldsmiths’ College.

He’s full of joie-de-vivre and writes to his father Henry, a successful builder with an impressive family home at 1 East End Villas, Birchington, in Kent:

Bravo bravissimo! The age of miracles has not passed! Have you found a place for it yet? Or will some ancient piece of furniture have to be shifted to make room? I think this view is a bit antique. What price the road sweeper! Yours Jim.

Jim has clearly found and sent something to his Dad- a birthday present perhaps. It sounds like a modern piece of furniture. What a charming term of affection for his father ‘bravissimo!’ which in Italian is the highest form of praise.

It is what one might say to a singer who has just completed a fantastic performance in an opera.

The picture of Goldsmiths’ College certainly belongs to how it looked more than 20 years previously- most likely 1905 or 1906.

The small children are in early Edwardian clothes- young children were dressed in the fashion of adults at that time.

There was no such thing as children’s fashion.

And the ‘road sweeper’ identified by Jim is the legendary Goldsmiths’ College ‘beggar’ nick-named ‘Cripps’ by students in 1910 because his moustache reminded them of the notorious wife-killer Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen put on trial for murder at the Central Criminal Court, found guilty and executed.

‘Cripps’ had a road sweeping pitch there for decades stretching way back to the Victorian times of the Goldsmiths’ Company’s Recreative and Technical Institute, and the Royal Naval School before that.

It may be a short postcard, but the writing is full of ebullient character, zest and charm: ‘Please thank Mum for cake and shoes. Both very acceptable. Hope you enjoyed Whist drive.’

What more can a new student arriving at Goldsmiths ever want, even in 2019, but cake and shoes from his mum!

In 1928, all women would be given the equal franchise in the General Election to follow.

With private motoring booming, deaths on the road through traffic accidents are soaring.

Well over 5,000 people have been killed in just one year. The Austin Seven is the car most people can afford at £225.

The Oxford Morris Minor car has been launched in August 1928.

The Highway Code would not be published until 1931, and driving tests not introduced until 1935.

Everton’s centre forward Dixie Dean has scored a record 60 goals in the football season ending, and artists Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth stage their first London exhibitions.

It would be the year that Professor Alexander Fleming at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington would discover the potential antibiotic properties of the blue mould penicillium notatum.

This is what Goldsmiths’ College looked like from the air in 1928. There are no buildings around the back field, nor indeed the upper field which is the site of the present Professor Stuart Hall and Lockwood buildings. The wonderful Art Nouveau swimming pool can be seen behind the George Wood Theatre, which in the 1920s still had the original Chapel tower and parallel with the bend in Dixon Road.

Goldsmiths trainee teacher Jim Bartlett was born in 1910. The 1911 census reveals that he had four older sisters.

In 1928 his father was 63 years old, most likely retired- hence his enjoyment of card games such as Whist Drive,  and his mother Christiana 58 years old.

Whist is not as popular as it was in the 1920s.

An alternative to Bridge, three of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes detective stories feature the card game.

In The Adventure of the Empty House, Ronald Adair plays whist at one of his clubs shortly before he is murdered.

In The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot, Brenda Tregennis plays whist with her brothers George, Mortimer, and Owen shortly before she is murdered.

In The Red-Headed League, the banker Mr. Merryweather complains that he is missing his regular rubber of whist in order to help Holmes catch a bank robber.

There is no evidence Henry had any involvement in any Sherlock Holmes style mystery murder, or that he was a round the world traveller such as Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg, a frequent winner at Whist when not quietly reading newspapers.

1911 census showing the Bartlett family living in Birchington. Jim is the youngest at 11 months old.

By the time of the Second World War, Jim was working as an elementary school teacher living in lodgings in Margate.

The 1939 national register taken in September after the outbreak of the Second World War. Jim Bartlett is well into his teaching career with a post at an Elementary School in Margate where he is living in lodgings in the seaside town.

Jim would die in Brighton in 1986. It would appear he was single and had no children.

The house in the Kent village of Birchington, where he was brought up with sisters Joyce (3 years older), Bessie (12 years older), Lily (14 years older), and Christiana (same forename as his mother and 15 years older), no longer exists.

This postcard sent to Miss Sally D. Hart by her grandmother in 1949 is clearly a picture of Goldsmiths’ College in the 1930s.

It’s June 1949 and a grandmother with shaky handwriting, presumably because of her age, writes to 18 year old Sally D. Hart who we can also assume has just been awarded a place at Goldsmiths’ College.

Grandma has been checking out the place.

The postcard is definitely a picture of the front of the College between the wars and doesn’t show how the Luftwaffe and flying bombs smashed and battered the Victorian buildings that have been repaired using emergency funds and building materials.

By now the swimming pool is no more. The tall chimney stacks have gone. The front gate columns are scarred with shrapnel, but the trams are still running down Lewisham Way.

Dear Sally, What a beautiful place. Make the most of it. Mum and Dad are doing alright.  Lovely weather and I am O.K. Love Grandma X X X

The chain-smoking King George VI is still on the throne.

Some war-time rationing is still in place though in 1949 it was ending for chocolate, sweets and clothing, and unlike her predecessors, Jim in 1928 and Wilfrid in 1914, Sally won’t have to worry about having to pay medical bills.

The National Health Service has been operational for a year.

The education system divides state educated children by the eleven-plus examination giving a minority the privilege of going to grammar school and getting middle-class professional jobs, and the rest going to secondary modern and technical schools where their futures would be mainly in trade, factories and industry.

The first launderette has opened in Bayswater.

Sally is presumably having a holiday at the Robin Hill Hotel in Torquay, which still exists to this day.

The Robin Hill Hotel in Torquay in 2019- just as it most probably looked in 1949 where Sally D. Hart was either staying on vacation or working at a summer job.

It’s also possible that her family owned it, or it was where she was working at a summer job before beginning her studies at Goldsmiths in September.

Sally would be joining Britain’s largest teacher training college with an art school that would shortly be nurturing the talents of the great art faker Tom Keating, and the brilliant designer Mary Quant.

In 1949 the Art students had been busy caricaturing their lecturers.

An art student called ‘Joyce’ caricatured College lecturers for the Magazine ‘Smiths in 1949.

The Warden, Arthur Edis Dean has been running the College since 1927.

He led the war-time evacuation to Nottingham between 1939 and 1946 and it is has only been three years since Goldsmiths has literally risen from the ashes and revived teaching and learning in New Cross.

When Warden Dean was Sally’s age he had already graduated from Durham University. He was an intellectual child prodigy.

Arthur Edis Dean, Warden of Goldsmiths’ College 1927 to 1950.

And so we have three postcard snapshots of the lives of three students from the past and the charming connections with their family and friends.

Sally Hart’s grandmother in 1949 having a look round the College, and clearly bursting with pride over the fact that her granddaughter has won a place to study there.

Jim Bartlett sending thanks for the cake and shoes from his mother in 1928, and hoping his ‘Bravissimo’ Dad, Henry, has had an enjoyable Whist Drive.

And an apprehensive and very polite Wilfrid in November 1914 sending Mrs Hinchliff a composite postcard giving thirteen pictures of Goldsmiths College just as the Great War is brewing up into a furnace of destruction, grief and despair.

Nowadays these messages, in all likelihood, would be by Instagram, Twitter, email, Facebook and LinkedIn.

But the sentiments, love and care by and for students at Goldsmiths, in all the twists and turmoils of an often troubling world, are more than likely to be the same.


Forthcoming ‘That’s So Goldsmiths’- an investigative history of Goldsmiths, University of London by Professor Tim Crook.

A greatly lamented Goldsmiths’ casualty of Passchendaele- William Thomas Young

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.

Before he joined up on 28th November 1915, shortly after Goldsmiths’ Warden Captain William Loring had died from wounds inflicted by sniper fire at Gallipoli, he had written most of Poems of Keats: Endymion: The Volume of 1820; And Other Poems. 

This was rapidly completed by his mentor at Liverpool University, Professor Oliver Elton, and published posthumously in August 1917 only a matter of weeks after his death.

Lost to History

Researching the lives of the early pioneers of education at Goldsmiths shows how fleeting the notion of significance and memory is in human society.

Very few people have any idea of the contribution of W. T Young BA, MA to the field of English literature.

Yet he was a rising star, and when he died during the relentless battle of attrition that was Passchendaele, Professor Elton would write in the Liverpool Daily Post and Mercury on 25th July 1917:

W.T.Young when 26 years old.

I have seldom come across a student with a more direct passion for literature in itself as an art, as a reading for life, apart from all the scaffolding, the philological, and historical, that is apt to surround and obscure it. In these studies Young duly equipped himself, but for him they were never the root of the matter. The right spirit, accordingly, was evident in his teaching and writing; he was the straightest and most loyal of colleagues as Liverpool University and Goldsmiths’ can testify? and his going was a loss to our university.

Young produced some very good anthologies from Browning and the Elizabethans, and also a short hand-survey of English literature. His quality, perhaps, can best be judged by turning to the last two volumes of “The Cambridge History of English Literature.”  I had been reading his chapters on George Meredith, Samuel Butler (of “Erewhon”), and George Gissing, and on a number of other novelists, when news came of his death.

This is not the place or moment for a review; but it is as well that these pages, the fruit of years and so full of close, fresh thinking, of pointed expression, should be secure within the covers of the monumental “History” and should not go down the stream.

William T. Young’s portfolio of books are no longer in the College library apart from one copy of the 1910 edition of An Anthology of the poetry of the age of Shakespeare ‘in the reserve stack.

Perhaps the Goldsmiths’ copies of his other books had been incinerated in the fires of 1940 and 1971, or simply withdrawn when new academics on the block addressed more contemporary fashions of criticism.

But his students treasured their possession.

This copy of the anthology of Browning’s poems has the owner R.C.G Hunt’s personal library plate.

R.C.G. Hunt of Goldsmiths’ Training College in New Cross printed his own book plates including his home address at 14 Orbel Street, Battersea Park.

It is also carefully dedicated by William in fountain pen with the words ‘Remembrances from the Editor W.T.Young July 10 1912’ to his student.

Apart from his name being carved on the wooden memorial in the lobby of the Richard Hoggart main building, there is so little trace of how he shaped the critical and literary imagination of hundreds of Goldsmiths’ students and, indeed, the thousands of scholars and teachers throughout the English speaking world who used his texts.

The College’s first woman Vice Principal, Caroline Graveson, wrote in the 1955 College history, The Forge, ‘I have Mr Young’s most promising book on English Literature on my shelves. He was killed in the first war with a career before him in the world of letters.’

In the college archives, there is a hand-written personnel page setting out his birth and early education in Peterborough, where his father had been a traveling salesman in confectionery.

He had attended Doncaster Grammar school and gained his BA and MA at Liverpool University where he started his academic career as tutor and assistant lecturer during the period 1904-6.

Professor Elton had said ‘bad health had delayed his powers of production’ before his move to Goldsmiths in September 1906, one year after the College’s opening.

His annual salary on joining was £280 (about £23,000 in today’s money) rising in £10 increments to £325 in July 1915 when he left to join the army.

He had been a cadet in the University of London officer training corps, artillery section.

Goldsmiths’ students digging out the rifle range before the First World War where members of the College’s Officer Training Corps could improve their marksmanship.

His entry in the Goldsmiths’ College staff book ends abruptly with the words ‘Killed in France, July 1917.’

The college archives do not have any clearly identified photograph of Mr. Young.

Liverpool University does not have any images of him either.

There are many group staff photographs from the early years, and one from 1909 has a hand-written list below it, but the second and third lines have faded out in places.

Faded Goldsmiths staff photograph from 1909. William Thomas Young is identified front row seat second from left.

A process of elimination and digital electronic enhancement of the faded writing seem to indicate W. T. Young is the male lecturer second from the left sitting in chairs on the front row.

William was short-sighted and wrote in his army documents that he wore glasses.

In other staff line-ups perhaps vanity led him to take off his spectacles and mortar board.

In 1907 William Thomas Young standing second from left, right of his friend Harry Curzon who was head of maths. Woman Vice Principal Caroline Graveson is seated below him, along with the Warden, William Loring, and Vice Principal for men, Thomas Raymont, second and first from right respectively.

Public archives reveal that at the time of the 1911 census William was living at 15 Bloomsbury Mansions in Hart Street WC1 and was hosting a visit of his friend William Loryton Hicks, an assistant secretary at Cambridge University Press.

Hart Street is now Bloomsbury Way and the site is occupied by the headquarters of BUPA.

At the time William was courting 27-year-old Hilda Black, the daughter of the former secretary to the Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon.

She and her family were boarding at 60 to 62 Queensborough Terrace in Paddington and it was in the Paddington district where William and Hilda married towards the end of 1911.

The protesting culture of Goldsmiths’ students as early as 1910-12 during W.T. Young’s time as lecturer. The students are taking part in a ‘Dinner Strike,’ after complaints about the College catering. 

Their daughter, Diana Joan, was born 25th April 1916 and her birth was registered in Woolwich.

After her father’s death it would appear she and her mother moved to Southport to live with William’s parents.

William’s War Office file contains a letter of administration whereby his estate of £463, 19 shillings and 11 old pence was held in trust until she was 21-years-old.

William’s surviving First World War officer file also includes a note from his father Thomas, now an Alderman on Southport Council, insisting that the memorial plaque sent to the families of people who died in the Great War, bore his proper rank of first Lieutenant.

William’s grave is tended by the Commonwealth War Grave’s Commission in the Belgian cemetery of Brandhoek and bears the inscription: ‘He gave himself, his all, for freedom’s cause, greatly beloved.’

Passchendaele – a life and morale sapping series of battles in 1917

Photograph Q5723 Imperial War Museums (collection no. 1900-13) THE THIRD BATTLE OF YPRES The Battle of Pilckem Ridge: A British 18 pounder field gun battery taking up new positions close to a communication trench near Boesinghe, 31 July 1917.

Lieutenant William T. Young was commissioned in the Northumbrian North Riding Royal Garrison Artillery and it would seem he would have witnessed or taken part in the Battle of Messines Ridge.

This was a prelude to the Third Battle of Ypres and lasted between 7th and 14th June 1917.

The British final objective was the capture of the ports at Ostend and Zeebrugge from which German U-boat submarines were trying to sink Allied shipping.

The British generals hoped to capture the German positions at Messines by surprise through detonating massive mines set in underground tunnels.

19 of the mines exploded in the early morning of 7th June with horrific casualties in the German lines.

Smashed up German trench on Messines Ridge with dead.’ Photographs from the Haig “Official Photographs” series, National Library Scotland. Licensed under CC BY 4.0

William Young and the men in his ’12 Heavy Battery’ would have heard and felt the explosions viscerally.

The explosions were so loud it was said they could be heard in London.

Lieutenant Young in the Royal Garrison Artillery operated much larger pieces of gunnery than the Royal Field Artillery.

These would include six inch and nine inch bore Howitzers, and 60 Pounder heavy field guns which often had to be pulled by motor tractors and on railway tracks.

William Young’s officer file indicates he died from shell fire on 12th July.

It was in the Ypres salient in 1915 that the German Army had first introduced the evils of chemical warfare to the Western Front.

They started with shells releasing grey-green chlorine gas that blinded allied soldiers and caused many to drown in their  own phlegm.

On the 12th of July the Germans experimented with a new yellow mustard gas for the first time.

The French troops called it ‘yperiet.’

It was heavier than air and collected at the foot of trenches.

It would cause the skin of victims to blister, make their eyes very sore, and cause vomiting, internal and external bleeding.

It was insidious in the way it slowly stripped the mucous membrane from the bronchial tubes leading to an extremely painful death lasting four to five weeks.

It is possible William’s unit was shelled as a result of German planes, air balloons, or forward spotters correctly identifying and predicting their coordinates.

He died more than two weeks before the beginning of the Third Battle of Ypres on 31 July 1917.

Legacy and loss

William Young was not the only man of letters in the Royal Garrison Artillery to be lost in the slaughter of First World War.

The journalist, essayist, novelist and poet, Edward Thomas, had been commissioned into the RGA as a second lieutenant and was killed in action soon after he arrived in France at Arras on Easter Monday, 9 April 1917.

The First World War Goldsmiths’ casualties included two members of the teaching staff (Captain William Loring and Lieutenant William T Young), one member of the office staff, 92 teacher training students, and eleven from the Evening and Art Departments.

Professor Elton reflected on the sacrifice that British Society was making when sending its crown jewels of artists, writers and academics into the throes of battle and death:

It is said the Germans save up and keep back from the front for the sake of the future, their brilliant young men. I do not know if this is true and the policy could be argued. Anyhow, it is not our way, and our way with all its tragedies, with its apparent wastefulness, rests on the conception that the claim for self-sacrifice is nothing less than universal, and that the gap which may follow in the intellectual life and production of the country is self-repaid and is necessary. High now and austere is the cairn rising over the younger scholars and writers, like Dixon Scott and Brooke and Sorley and Young, who have perished willingly – instead of being saved up – for the sake of the future – and whose voices we seem to hear saying:-

But if the old world with all the old iron rent

Laugh and give thanks, shall we be not content?

Nay, we shall rather live, we shall not die.

Life being so little and death so good to give.

William Young’s study of Robert Browning includes the poem ‘Prospice’ and is marked with the lines:

Fear death ? – to feel the fog in my throat,

         The mist in my face,

When the snows begin, and the blasts denote

        I am nearing the place,

The power of the night, the press of the storm,

       The post of the foe;

Where he stands, the Arch Fear in a visible form,

       Yet the strong man must go…

William Young analyses the poem from Dramatis Personae published in 1864 and observes ‘it is a poem of fearless self-assertion uttered under pressure of the thought of Death. Shrinking and cowardice are condemned through the two-fold inspiration of the belief in immortality, and the hope of human love to be recovered.’

One wonders if the young father now in uniform in Flanders derived any comfort from this poem he had taught to his students at Goldsmiths when faced with the ‘power of the night’ of Passchendaele’s violence and destruction.

This is certainly the quality of criticism that marked him out as such an inspirational lecturer and literary academic.


Knitted poppies on a wall of Walsham-le-Willows church, Suffolk for Remembrance Day 2017. Image: Tim Crook.

The legacy of his daughter Diana (1916-2009)

William Young’s literary talents were inherited by his daughter, Diana, who was able to go to Cheltenham Ladies College as a result of a grant from the Officers’ Families Fund.

She began writing fiction from the age of 16 ‘sitting in an ABC café in the Harrow Road, London’ according to her obituarist, the award-winning BBC radio feature documentarist Piers Plowright. 

Piers also contributed to ‘In memoriam – Diana Raymond’ published in her church’s Parish magazine shortly after her funeral in St John-at-Hampstead church in 2009.

Diana was encouraged in her writing by her enormously successful cousin on her mother’s side, the novelist Pamela Frankau.

Her first novel was rejected by publishers but Pamela urged her never to give up and her second novel, The Door Stood Open, was published when she was only nineteen.

Later in life Diana was commissioned to write a biography of Pamela.

The project stalled when Pamela’s profile waned, but all her papers on the project have been donated to Southampton University’s Special Collections.

Diana published novels under her maiden name before marrying the influential novelist Ernest Raymond in 1940. 

By the time of her death in 2009 she had completed 24 novels described by Plowright as ‘infused with wit and metaphysics.’

It is likely that the sense of loss caused by her father’s death is an autobiographical theme running through Lily’s Daughter, first published in 1988 and reissued as an ebook by Corazon books in 2014.

Her husband Ernest helped trace her father’s grave in the Brandhoek cemetery so she could visit his final resting place for the first time.

Frontispiece to the posthumously published volume of Keats’ poems edited by W.T. Young before his death by artillery bombardment in 1917.

Her father’s posthumous work on Keats coincided with her own love for the poet.


She was inspired to write the play ‘John Keats Lived Here’ to mark the bicentenary of his birth which was performed by the Hampstead Players in 1995 with a one night performance in the West End.

When re-reading her father’s introduction to his Keats’ anthology she said: ‘the echoes there of my own love for Keats are comforting, like a hand held out across time.’

Research on Diana Joan Raymond by Mary Davies, Head of Alumni Relations and Regular Giving.


That’s So Goldsmiths– a forthcoming history of the university is being researched and written by Professor Tim Crook.

The secret history of Goldsmiths’ Crimean War heroes

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.

Crimean War Tablet at New Cross Royal Naval School Chapel. Image: Illustrated London News 27th March 1858.

They had a magnificent carved marble memorial dedicated to their memory on the wall of what is now the George Wood theatre.

This had originally been built as the Royal Naval School’s chapel:

Sacred to the memory of the undermentioned officers, formerly pupils of the Royal Naval School, who fell while nobly serving their country in the Russian War … in remembrance of their gallant and meritorious services.

Each of the young men died in ways that symbolised the nature of the Crimean War and how it is remembered.

Great Britain became an ally of the French and what is now modern day Turkey to counter the military expansionism of Tsar Nicholas the First.

He wanted to replace the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans, and acquire the Crimean peninsula so as to guarantee access for the Russian fleet’s easy passage between the Black and Mediterranean seas.

This was the war which inaugurated the role of the foreign correspondent through the critical despatches of Times reporter William Howard Russell.

Times Crimean War correspondent William Howard Russell. Image: Roger Fenton, US Library of Congress, Public Domain.

It was the first British involved conflict with officially commissioned war photography.

It was very much the first modern media war as the laying of telegraph cables meant news could reach Britain in a matter of hours rather than days.

And the New Cross soldiers and sailors were in the thick of it.

Lieutenant Edward Carrington was killed on 6th June 1854 in a little known Royal Naval equivalent of the Charge of the Light Brigade.

This was on water opposite deadly gun batteries at Gamla Karleby – what is now the modern Finnish Baltic town of Kokkola, in the gulf of Bothnia.

He was killed as were  most of the men in his boat.

The Vice Admiral and Commander in Chief of the Baltic force, Charles Napier, publicly castigated Captain Glasse of HMS Vulture for:

…sending boats to attack a place so far distant from his ship without any apparent object, which has led to the melancholy catastrophe on this occasion.

This was the war that exposed the inadequacies of military medical supplies, care and treatment.

Florence Nightingale. Public Domain.

While Florence Nightingale was struggling in vain to save lives at the hospital in Scutari, tens of thousands of men died from cholera, dysentry and other diseases.

They included the former New Cross cadet Richard Morris who was Mate of HMS Wasp and died of cholera before Sebastopol on 24th November 1854.

The fate of Sidney Smith Boxer Esquire was particularly poignant.

He was assistant secretary to his uncle Rear Admiral Boxer who was being heavily criticised for the failures in the distribution of ordnance and supplies.

Sidney died from cholera at Balaclava on 1st June 1855.

His uncle, exhausted from the strains of his role and grief over the death of his young nephew, succumbed to cholera and died a week later.

Captain Edwin Richards of the 41st Regiment died from multiple bayonet and gunshot wounds at the head of his company in the Battle of Inkerman 5th November 1854. His grieving father in Ireland was told:

…he was surrounded by Russians. Refusing to yield himself a prisoner, he shot four of his opponents, and killed two with his sword – thus dying the noblest and glorious death a man could die, without pain; shot through the body and stabbed by several bayonet wounds, he suffered no pain as death must have been instantaneous.

The Master of HM Transport Resolute, R.O Lewis Esquire, was another Royal Naval School New Cross graduate.

Balaclava Harbour 1854. Image: Roger Fenton. US Library of Congress, Public Domain.

He drowned when a hurricane swept through Balaclava harbour on 14th November 1854 sinking and smashing transport ships.

Richard Nicklin, a civilian photographer, sent to take pictures of the conflict to build public support for the war, was also lost at sea, along with his assistants, photographs, and equipment.

Roger Fenton and his unit were sent to replace him and survived the journey, the weather, diseases, and all the dangers of the conflict.

The final New Cross Naval School victim was Lieutenant James Murray of the Royal Engineers.

He was mortally wounded while leading an assault on the Redan fortification on 18th June 1855.

Mary Seacole by William Simpson (1823-1899) Image: Public domain.

He could have been attended by the Jamaican born pioneer paramedic Mary Seacole who was seen going out into the battlefield to provide comfort and assistance to those struck down by artillery or musket fire.

The memorial tablet to these men was taken down when the chapel was deconsecrated following the Naval School’s move to Mottingham in 1889.

The building was converted into a lecture hall in 1891 and then a theatre in 1968.

The monument, designed by sculptor Edward James Physick, is now in the vestibule of Greenwich’s Royal Naval School Chapel, with no indication that it refers to the New Cross educated veterans.

That’s So Goldsmiths, a new history of the university is being researched and written by Professor Tim Crook.