Oxford in Wartime
Before World War 1, most North Oxford houses had iron railings set into their low walls, but these were removed to be melted down and recast as ships or guns.
In May 1940 men between 17 and 65 were asked to offer their services for the "Local Defence Volunteers". Uniforms and equipment were less forthcoming than volunteers and it may have been the ramshackle nature of their weaponry which earned the Barton Contingent the nickname "Look, Duck and Vanish Brigade". Barton was an enthusiastic group, which "stood down" in 1944 with some reluctance. The name "L.D.V." was later changed to the less bureaucratic "Home Guard".
By early 1939 the Government had decided that war was inevitable, and called up 18 year olds that spring, ostensibly for 6 months training. They didn't get out again until 1947, since those who joined up later were released earlier on grounds of greater age and therefore less employability - so some spent 8 years in the army.
Daily Info Founder John Rose spent part of his war in Oxford and gave his reminiscences.
“At St Edwards' school the most obvious impact on school life, when rations were reduced to 1/4 of an ounce of butter and one egg per week, was a vast improvement in the food compared with peacetime. We had minced meat and sausages, which, while largely made with bread, you could actually cut with a sharp knife, whereas our sliced mutton before the war was as resistant as the plate itself.
“Military parades took place 2 half-days a week, and we were sometimes called upon in uniform to defend Oxford against practice incursions by Canadians pretending to be Germans. It was my mission on one occasion to defend the Woodstock Rd against the threat from the north, for which I was provided with one thunderflash. I spent the entire day standing in the doorway of a house on the corner of Osberton Rd, awaiting the tanks. I clutched my thunderflash tightly, and the sweat gradually dissolved it until by 4pm, when I was relieved (because the Canadians had gone down the Banbury Rd instead) there was nothing left to throw. Great equalisers, the Canadians. There was a wall off the Banbury Rd, dividing a private estate from a council estate. They went through it and it has never been rebuilt.”
Artist and author of this cartoon, Mary Potter, spent her war years drawing maps for the Admiralty, who were camping out in the School of Geography. Mary was head of a cartography section in New College.