First World War Centenary

2014 will mark 100 years since the start of the First World War. Archives around the country have a huge role to play in the commemoration of this event. The National Archives digitised unit war diaries, for example, contain a wealth of information about daily events on the front line. There are also many more websites which have been set up, including Europeana 1914-1918 and World War I Centenary: Continuations and Beginnings.

Here at Brasenose we have some interesting material including photographs, letters and diaries. Throughout the year we’ll be highlighting this material, as well as some of the College members who served in the conflict, here on the blog. This month we’ll begin with what happened to the College during the First World War.

A few undergraduates remained in Brasenose during the war but this was side by side with the military. Several military authorities were housed in the College throughout the war, including The County of Oxford Territorial Force Association 100 members of the Officer Training Corps from Manchester University, and the 135th Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery. In August 1916 the College was requisitioned by the Royal Flying Corps (later the Royal Air Force) and they remained in the College until December 1918.

RFC Sep 1916 [PIC 2 B1-1]

Royal Flying Corps in Brasenose College September 1916

The College magazine, The Brazen Nose, reported in November 1914 that ‘there are forty-three men in residence, forty-five vacant rooms, sixty-six who would have been with us training in camps at home or fighting in France or Belgium’. Throughout the war the magazine listed serving members, including those missing or wounded and countless obituaries of men killed in action.

The archive also holds 6 mess books, which belonged to the Royal Flying Corps and detail individual mess accounts during this period. However it is the Bursar’s Home Letter Books which contain the most details about occupying forces and day to day matters.

A final special service in commemoration of those who had fallen in the war was held in the College Chapel in 1919. It was attended by many College members, as well as by friends and relatives of those who had fallen. In all 114 Brasenose men lost their lives between 1914 and 1919. By Michaelmas term 1919 student numbers had swelled and more students than ever matriculated, indeed ‘something of the old life of the College began to show itself immediately after the Armistice’ (The Brazen Nose).

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