King’s and the Blitz, September 1940
Firewatchers on the roof of King's College London Strand during the Blitz (College Archives, K/PH6/1/4)Shown here is a letter from Robert Hutton, College Librarian and Officer in Charge of the Auxiliary Fire Service at the Strand to JT Combridge, Assistant to the College Secretary in Bristol, 25 September 1940 (College Archives, KAS/AD8/F39) and a photograph of firewatchers on the roof of King's College London in 1940 (College Archive, K/PH6/1/4).
At the time of the London Blitz, most students and staff who had not been called up or diverted to essential war work, were evacuated to Bristol and Glasgow. A small number also went to Llandudno. The Strand was given over to the Auxiliary Fire Service and used as a base for emergency services more widely with a number of College staff, chiefly those then known as College servants, serving as firewatchers.
In his letter Hutton,who was left in charge of the Strand writes to Combridge of life in the Blitz, the difficulties of travel, the toll of nights of sleeplessness, the sense of fragility and impermanence of life and more prosaically the challenge of foraging for toast when power supplies were cut. In his postscript is the first evidence that students evacuated to Bristol and Glasgow were to be no safer than London as the war wore on.