Posted on 03/11/2014
Soldiers at St Dunstan’s, 1915
2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, a war which changed the lives of people across Europe and beyond. The week beginning 10th November is the start of a nationwide Explore Your Archive campaign to promote archive collections all over the country. Royal Holloway Archives are marking this week with an event looking at how the First World War affected the students and staff at both Royal Holloway and Bedford Colleges. The event is free and open to all staff and students find out more information and book a ticket here.
The image above is one that has been used on posters to promote the event so it seems a good idea to explain what the photo is showing and how it is connected to the Colleges. The photograph shows soldiers at St Dunstan’s, a centre which was founded to care for soldiers suffering from eye injuries and resulting blindness. St Dunstan’s was founded by Sir Arthur Pearson who was the owner of the Evening Standard and founder of the Daily Express. He lost his own sight from glaucoma and was shocked by the treatment of blind people in society. He founded St Dunstan’s in 1915 to care for the many servicemen who had lost their sight whilst serving in the First World War. His aim was to ensure they could go on to lead productive self-sufficient lives after rehabilitation and training.
The organisation used St Dunstan’s Lodge in Regent’s Park as their base which was very close to the Bedford College campus. The students from both Bedford and Royal Holloway found ways that they could contribute to the war effort and students at Bedford College visited St Dunstan’s to help out which is how the photograph ended up in our archive collection. St Dunstan’s still exists today but the organisation has changed its name to Blind Veterans UK and now has its main base in Brighton.
The student’s at both Colleges raised funds and volunteered to help with war work at the Colleges and also during the vacations. Their work covered a wide range of activities including raising funds through concerts and door to door collections, knitting comforts, rolling bandages and sewing shirts, hosting entertainments for soldiers and volunteering during their vacations at farms needing people to help harvest the goods. If you would like to find out more about how students and staff contributed to the war effort and how war affected their lives come along to our event in the Picture Gallery at 3pm on Monday 10th November 2014.
Annabel Valentine, College Archivist