Geologists at war, 1939–1945

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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 producing a series of wartime pamphlets.

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.

Home Guard

Like many others, members of the Geological Survey joined the Home Guard to defend Britain from possible invasion.

Secret and confidential

Geologists from the Survey were involved in a variety of confidential and secret working during the war.


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.


Even as the war continued, plans were drawn up for what work the Survey would be doing once peace finally came.