Over the next few months, interns and volunteers on the Reflections project will write a few blog posts to discuss their experience working on the project and some of the research materials they have uncovered. This time Northumbria University intern Abbie McGowan discusses her research into Armstrong College and the Lit & Phil during the war.
Although I was given three themes to explore, most of the material I encountered focused on Wartime Education with a particular emphasis on the impact of the Second World War on Armstrong College.
Principal Annual Reports of Armstrong College to the Council successfully summarized the sentiment that seemed to be present at the time in the following:
“It is natural that the work of the College should have been seriously affected by the war not only by the diminution of its ordinary activities but by the opportunity which has been afforded it of contributing what it could to the general resources of the country.”
Understandably, the war impacted teaching at Armstrong College what with the inevitable occupation of its buildings by the War Office from August 1914. There were significant reductions in resources whilst, as a result of conscription, class numbers dramatically declined in second and third year courses especially. Nonetheless, sessions did continue despite these obvious disadvantages and inhibitions. The College still received local support with each Department having been provided with a temporary location to allow for the continuation of its academic efforts. The Department of Classics and Ancient History both experienced the generosity of the Lit and Phil whilst the Department of Modern History and Economics and Commerce were both based at the Mining Institute. Annual reports show that such departments actually benefitted from their relocations because students had access to a library which exceeded – both in range and detail – any collection of books that would have been available to them at the College previously. Furthermore, to a certain extent the increased level of pressure faced by the College because of limits to departmental resources was actually balanced out by the aforementioned reduction in the number of students.
Not only was it apparent that the war influenced classes and resources but that staff and students alike were more than willing to face the consequences of its influence because it was their contribution to the war effort. A sacrifice that did not even compare to the sacrifice brave citizens made in joining the armed forces. Nearly all of the archival material studied commemorated those who actively participated in the global conflict. Most interestingly in the Departmental Annual Reports of Armstrong College to the Council was a request for a war memorial in the form of a library. “The fifth year of exile from Armstrong College buildings has been, for the Library, signalised by one outstanding event; full of promise, in that the College Council has expressed approval of the project…that an Armstrong College War Memorial should take the form of a new Library Building equipped worthily as a record of the gallant part played by members of the College in the great struggle for European justice and freedom.” Moreover, on numerous occasions I discovered a ‘Roll of Honour’ – specifically intended to remember those who had participated in the war – regardless of what kind of material it was that was being examined. For example, The Northerner (the official Armstrong College Calendar) listed those who went to war; those who received medals and those who were killed in service. It also published full page spreads dedicated to those closely associated with the College itself, as did the Durham University Journal.
Thus, it is obvious that whilst Armstrong College and other institutions in Newcastle did suffer as a result of the war, there was never any bitterness felt. Instead such establishments were more than willing to make whatever sacrifice possible. To continue with life as best as they could under the circumstances was evidently the greatest act of patriotism and the most poignant way to recognize the sacrifice made by men across the nation; including those of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.