29 December 1914-4 January 1915: Battersea Polytechnic Student activities

We close the year with Battersea Polytechnic. This post has much of the background to the polytechnic, and they produced their own magazine which updated students on college activity and alumni information. The editorial for December 1914 comments that they would like to wish all their readers ‘“a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year”. The first half of the greeting however, cannot, we feel, be realised in its entirety this year, as present condition are too serious for that.’ Having acknowledged that the war had not been over by Christmas, the editorial goes on to encourage all readers to do their duty to help their country.

A War Fund had been set up, and the Art Department had contributed by holding an Art Exhibition, pointing out that artists are not generally “overburdened with this world’s goods” but determined nonetheless to be involved in the fundraising. The Ladies’ Sub-Committee was also very active, dealing with cases submitted by the Women’s Emergency Corps, Labour Bureaux and local clergy – they employed women workers and numbers employed had risen from 5 to 7. The women were employed to make army shirts – flannel had been purchased and the women made between 4 and 8 shirts a week. Cutting out the shirts was done by the staff and students of the Domestic Science Department, along with other willing helpers, each evening. The War Fund was also concerned over whether the care packages sent to troops should contain tobacco, or if small packets of tea would be equally acceptable – the balance was mainly in favour of tobacco.

The magazine also carried a report on the Women’s Relief Corps, an organisation designed to help women to prepare to take up other duties which may be required of them later in the war. The Civil Section aimed to train women to take up men’s posts to release them for active service, whilst the Semi-Military Service had the added task of training women in some military drill. The report assures readers that the “nature of the training is in no way intended to encourage women to attempt to act as combatants”.

The previous issue of the magazine had carried a list of all staff and students currently serving in the Armed Forces, and the December issue contained an update – as well as a photograph of Frederick Johnson, who had graduated in summer 1914 and was a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers. Later magazines contain photographs of other men connected with the Polytechnic.

More routine aspects of Polytechnic life were not overlooked by the magazine, it carried reports of scholarships awarded, posts obtained by students – particularly those from the Domestic Science Department – and reports of society activities. The Engineering Society had visited the Osram lightbulb factory in Hammersmith and the LCC Tram repair works in Charlton. There were also reports of new books in the library and exam successes, so although the war was clearly having an effect on the life of students, some aspects very much carried on.