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Balliol during the First World War

WW1 memorials in Balliol College are listed here.

The main resources for biographical information about *members* of Balliol College for this period are the War Memorial Book and the College Register, both online here. Please consult these publications thoroughly before contacting the archivist; see also this page.

During World War One, Balliol had two distinct populations. Some of the older Fellows and a much reduced student body (further reduced through each academic year as their commissions came up and they went into active service) carried on something of the ordinary academic life of the college. But Balliol's premises, like those of most Oxford colleges, were largely given over to war work. Balliol's Broad Street site hosted thousands of British and Commonwealth officer cadets on short training courses, mainly members of No.6 Officer Cadet Battalion. These men were not members of Balliol or of the University of Oxford; rather, the Army was in effect renting the property, and the college holds no administrative records of their time here. Balliol College has no lists of names or any other systematic records about the individual officer cadets or their activities while staying in the College.

If you are researching an individual who may have been at Balliol College during WW1, please check your sources very carefully. The colleges 'hosting' Officer Cadet Battalions made an effort to make the cadets feel welcome and part of 'their' colleges, and for many of the men this was an enjoyable part of their Army life; perhaps a part of their wartime experience that they could share more easily with those back at home. Over time the stories of many residential cadet experiences have evolved into misunderstandings - a period of Army training can turn into a whole Oxford degree over several generations of retelling. Balliol College students are recorded in the War Memorial Book and the College Register, both online here.

There are, however, a few isolated glimpses into the lives of officer cadets during their brief sojourns in Oxford. In 2005 an Australian bookseller wrote to us with the offer of a photo album created by one JH Brian Armstrong, a member of No 6 Officer Cadet Battalion at Balliol July - October 1917. Images are reproduced here. There are no identifications of individuals in the album.

Balliol also holds copies of two numbers of 'The Souvenir', a journal produced by ‘A’ Company No. 6 Officers’ Cadet Battalion, of their time in Oxford, online here. These do contain lists of the cadets at Balliol for the periods covered by the publications.

Balliol does not have copies of any other numbers of 'The Souvenir.' If you have copies of this invaluable resource that you are willing to share, please get in touch. The Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives holds a copy of the number for Nov. 4, 1916 - Mar 2, 1917:.


Further reading:

JM Winter's chapter in Vol VIII of The History of the University of Oxford provides a useful survey of Oxford in the First World War.

Also recommended is Malcolm Graham's Oxford in the Great War (Pen & Sword, 2014).

More online resources about Oxford and WW1

Somerville College's WW1 blog

- Anna Sander


- Anna Sander

You do not need to request permission to download or print one copy of any of the images on these pages for your personal private study or research purposes.
You do need to request permission in writing to use any of these images for any publication in any format, including any use on a website.

The archives and manuscripts of Balliol College are open by appointment to enquirers in person at the Historic Collections Centre in St Cross Church, Holywell.
Enquiries should be sent in writing (email or post).
There is no charge for Archive enquiries, but donations for Archive purposes are always appreciated.
Updated 29.iii.18
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