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Past Meeting

Malcolm Graham - When The Lights Went Out: Oxfordshire 1939-45

  • Date
    14th November 2012
  • Place
    Chemistry Research Laboratory (CRL), South Parks Rd, Oxford, OX13TA
  • Web 

Queen Street Oxford
Giving directions in Queen Street
As the years roll by, living memories of the Second World War are becoming more scarce.

Malcolm Graham is an expert historian and author who has specialised in this period.

He published a book, "Oxfordshire at War", back in 1994 and his research for the book forms the background to the talk, which explores the topics outlined below.

Oxfordshire in the Second World War

Air Raid Precautions were adopted throughout the county, including the building of air raid shelters, gas attack precautions, the black-out, the use of camouflage and the creation of special defensive installations. In the event, the county was fortunate to escape serious bombing raids.

Evacuees, those who formed part of the Governments official evacuation scheme and also those who chose to, came to "safe" areas such as Oxfordshire. There was also a substantial movement of institutions, including government bodies, to the county.

There was a Military Presence in wartime Oxfordshire where GHQ Stop Lines were built in 1940 to hinder enemy invasion. The county was an important training area for the armed forces and as a military store-house in the run-up to D-Day. Even the Bodleian Library played its part when its map room was used in the D-Day preparations.

Dads Army, The Home Guard as it was formally known, was formed during the crisis of May 1940 and had many local achievements and adventures.

Spitfire at Cowley
Lord Nuffield & Spitfire at Cowley
The major Oxfordshire employers played a key role in the War Work of the day: the motor industry and the Northern Aluminium factory at Banbury, where women workers played an important part. Spitfires were repaired at Cowley. The countys farms were geared up to increase agricultural production, and Howard Florey and his colleagues at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology did crucial work in developing the clinical use of penicillin.

Individuals and community groups also made a huge contribution to the war effort through paid and voluntary work and also through Savings and Salvage, which covered everything from special war savings weeks to recycling campaigns.

The war impacted Everyday Life which saw food and clothes rationing, communal feeding, utility furniture, coal shortages, holidays at home, bathing in five inches of water, etc.

Malcolm Graham

Bridge of Sighs
Canadian soldiers in Oxford for
Rest & Recuperation
Malcolm Graham read History at Nottingham University before doing a postgraduate librarianship course in Leeds and an MA in English Local History at Leicester University.

He came to Oxford in 1970 as the Citys first full-time local history librarian and took on the same role for the County in 1974. Between 1991 and 2008, he was Head of Oxfordshire Studies with Oxfordshire County Council.

He has published extensively on local history - his first Oxford town trail appeared in 1973 - and he has given hundreds of talks and broadcasts over the years.

He was awarded a PhD by Leicester University for a study of the development of Oxfords Victorian suburbs and he is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

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