1940s

The Years of Conflict…

The Library Dawn 1942- An image as true today as it was in the 1940s, the library full of the ‘shelf searchers’, the ‘chatterers’, the ‘ceiling contemplaters’ and finally, probably the most unheard of, the ‘workers’. Please enlarge to see a bigger image with longer captions.

Source: Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

Three Viewpoints of the War written in Crefft student newspaper by different student societies Crefft 1943:

1)      Conservative – Why we are at war.

Communists believe it to be a war between the Capitalists of Germany, Great Britain, and America fighting not for the economic control of the world, but as a struggle between Right and Wrong. The instinct of self-preservation to maintain our position in the world of commerce and industry justifies the war. Thus the right-wing view of the war can be summed up in saying that as God is with us we are sure to triumph.

2)      Socialist – Fighting for…What?

Germany is fighting for self-determination and a new order in Europe. The British leaders are fighting for democracy, so they say. The British Colonial Empire is seen as one of the ‘glittering prizes’ of the war for the winner; untold wealth lies in such lands as India and Africa (cheap labour and mineral wealth). Millions of people are being seen to be sacrificed on the altar of Capital and Profit, fighting for national dignity and democracy.

3)      Christian – What is man…?

Christian civilisation is at stake in the present conflict. Many differing depictions of man: as an economic animal or as a romantic creature. The war is the judgment of a God Who is Holy and a God Who is Just. Christianity alone is capable of overcoming hatred and giving to Man that constructive understanding and passion for justice which will be needed in the struggles which face the world.

‘To Be A Farmer’s Boy’ Dawn 1941– Much propaganda surrounded working on the  home front during the war, this is one example. A farmers boy works the fields happily in aid of a stronger army and home front.

Source: Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

Student responses to war:

‘The Social Committee have done their best to maintain some of the social activities of college life, in spite of the many difficulties of the present situation. Union has been kept open, other rooms added to the available accommodation.’ Swansea University soldiered on with the war effort and motivating their students in the time of destruction, uncertainty and hardship.

Leave of absence for the duration of the war’ is the official note on several members of the Staff who have left us, one after another, since October 1939. As staff members dwindled throughout the duration of World War Two, students were not perturbed and strove to maintain their university education. Luckily, no members of staff at Swansea University died in World War Two, yet not all went back to teaching after they had witnessed the horrors of the war.

Dawn 1943-44 – ‘One of the main things we are fighting for in this war is the right of every man and woman to think and act for themselves – freedom to live and develop their own lives.’ – ‘In war-time of course, freedom is little more than a name to most people’.

Dawn 1945-46 – ‘Politically and culturally the average student was fitted with blinkers many years ago by overworked schoolteachers and ambitious parents.’

Dawn 1947: ‘A student who left the sacred precincts of the University College in the early 1930s would find it hard indeed to recognise the place today. College has taken a deep breath, and expanded its walls to accommodate (or so it seems to us) countless thousands.’

Swansea University was changing ethically and structurally as new buildings were created in Swansea to hold ammunitions or factories for making products to help the war effort. Ideals were changing and people craved a freer atmosphere away from the repression that the war imposed.

***

The information I gathered for the 1940s was slightly less accessible than other decades as there were less sources to look through. The only sources that were available were the student newspapers in the form of Dawn magazine and Crefft newspaper. I found these sources extremely interesting as it gave a student insight into their reaction to the war. Surprisingly, many of the articles did not always focus on the fighting as students appeared to read these newspapers as an outlet away from all the talk of the war. The idea that the student press was used to keep up moral is one which could easily be explored further through more extensive research; there were many poems to keep up moral, particularly towards the last few years of the war when spirits were waning.

[Kate Godding]

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