World War I
The College was made available to several military authorities, which included the 4th Reserve Battalion of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, 100 OTCs from Manchester University, the 135th Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery, and cadets of the Royal Flying Corps (later the Royal Air Force).
A few undergraduates remained at Brasenose, side by side with military personnel, but there were fewer than twenty in residence in the College each term, mostly from non-combatant countries.
The number of staff was inevitably reduced; in October 1915 a report of the Committee on College service concluded that ‘in consequence of the reduction in the numbers of the College the maintenance of the existing staff of servants is no longer justified at a time when the interests of the country demand both the strictest economy and the fullest possible employment of every citizen’.
For the first academic year of World War I the Chapel provided the usual weekday morning service and two on Sundays. The following year the daily services ceased, but the obligation to attend remained and undergraduates worshipped at St. Mary’s or Oriel College. But the Brasenose Sunday evening services continued throughout the war ‘as nearly as possible on their old traditions’.
World War II
Structured recruiting through conscription from the beginning of the war meant that there were many more students than in World War I. They fell into three groups: 1) scientists and medical students doing full degree courses, 2) men who were under age for military service and allowed to be up for one year before going into the forces and 3) Service cadets; the various branches of the forces requisitioned colleges for training cadets. The University allowed them to matriculate as members of the University whilst they were doing their short courses. A few undergraduates were in lodgings, and the rest housed in the Meadow Buildings at Christ Church College.
Brasenose was again requisitioned by the military authorities. A Liaison Officers School occupied Brasenose between October 1940 and December 1941. This was followed by a Junior Staff School, until November 1942, and then a Senior Officers’ School, until April 1944. In June 1944 the Royal Army Medical Corps took over several staircases, and after this the exact occupants are difficult to ascertain from the records; a letter refers to ‘the varying units or bodies who occupy the College’. In August 1944 there were nursing staff attached to the Examination Schools’ Hospital, and a Matron was in residence in September 1944. In June 1945 there were thirty to forty nurses in residence or expected.
Most of the College Servants were either called up or had moved to Christ Church to help to look after the Brasenose men there. Consequently ‘the Bursar had to collect a number of elderly retired College servants. The Officers, from the necessities of their work, keep very irregular hours. Dinner is often very late and may be followed by a very early breakfast. It is obviously a very great hardship for elderly men to get to and fro in the black-out … The result is that servants are already beginning to go sick and the officers are getting inadequate attention.’
In October 1939 Chapel services were discontinued 'until further notice’. The Cathedral was to be regarded as the College chapel, and the undergraduates were to keep Christ Church attendance regulations. Later in the war the military were permitted to use the Chapel on the third Sunday in each month, provided that they heated it themselves.
In both wars the Brasenose Fellows shared their Senior Common Room and the Common Table with the dons of Lincoln College (next door to Brasenose).
Members of Brasenose who served in the wars
For more information about individual members of College who served in the wars please contact the Archivist. Useful guides to researching both wars are available via the National Archives. The University of Oxford also has some useful online resources relating to the centenary of World War I.
Please also visit the Library and Archives blog, which features some posts about the wars.
Obituaries for Brasenose men who died in World War I
Obituaries from 1914 (November)
Rolls of Service
For the College's Rolls of Service please visit the archives pages
Brasenose's War memorials
The World War I memorial is on the west wall of the Ante Chapel. This memorial was designed and executed by Mr L. A. Turner. It is made of oak, oblong in shape with a curved central top, and is divided into five panels containing in gold letters one hundred and fourteen names of Brasenose men who died in the war.
The World War II memorial is situated on the wall in the entrance to the Chapel. It was designed by the English architect and designer Edward Maufe and carved by Barry Hart in 1951. On it are inscribed one hundred and twenty-three names, along with the inscription DEI GLORIAE ET MEMORIAE ALUMNORUM QUI PRO LIBERTATE VINDICANDA MORTEM OBIERUNT HUNC TITULUM PIETATIS CAUSSA PONENDUM CURAVIT DOMUS SOSPES. The memorial was unveiled and dedicated in 1951.