Geologists at war, 1939–1945
Like everybody else, geologists and their work were affected by the outbreak of World War II.
This page shows some of these effects and the contributions made by geologists to the war effort. In addition to the subjects covered the Survey was involved in a wide range of activities such as advising the on the siting of military camps, aerodromes and storage depots (surface and underground), surveying for minerals in the UK, giving advice on where to get sand for sandbags and providing geological information to assist the D-Day landings.
Preparing for war
As the prospect of war grew more likely, arrangements were made for what would happen to the Geological Survey of Great Britain and its staff.
Letter from E B Bailey to J Fox relating to the Survey’s chemical work in the event of war, 1939 [GSM/DC/W/13]
Like many others, members of the Geological Survey joined the Home Guard to defend Britain from possible invasion.
Kingsley Dunham's Defence Medal [KCD/A/3/2/4]
Geological Survey and Museum and London Regional Company of the Home Guard. The photograph features Edward Bailey and C J Stubblefield amongst others, 1944. [GSM/DR/Sb/7/5]
Secret and confidential
Geologists from the Survey were involved in a variety of confidential and secret working during the war.
Letter from C F Davidson to F B A Welch relating to a request by Naval Intelligence for geological information on Greece, 1943 [GSM/DC/W/5]
At 11:47pm on 10 September 1940 a German bomb damaged the Geological Museum at Exhibition Road, London. Edward Bailey in his book Geological Survey of Great Britain records that the bomb "broke half the windows" and a later near miss in 1941 "completed out [sic, probably meant our] deglazing."
The other side
The British were not alone in their use of geologists during the Second World War as these documents show.
Pages from one of Walther Klüpfel's notebooks relating to the geology of Jersey, 1941 [GSM/GX/CK/1/3]
Even as the war continued, plans were drawn up for what work the Survey would be doing once peace finally came.