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 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.
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]
Secret and confidential
Geologists from the Survey were involved in a variety of confidential and secret working during the war.
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Photographs from the report showing the Orkla and Eitrheim Works, Norway, c1941 [no ref]
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Page from the report relating to Pyrites, c1941 [no ref]
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Notes on Eastern Mediterranean dust-storms, 1941 [GSM/DC/W/15]
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Geological Survey wartime pamphlet on water supply from underground sources in the East Yorkshire-North Lincolnshire District, 1944 [no ref]
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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]
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Welch’s reply to Davidson’s letter, 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.
Walther Klüpfel was born at Heidelberg on 28 May 1888. He studied geology in Metz, Heidelberg, Berlin, Vienna and Strasbourg. He served in the First World War and was awarded the Iron Cross, Second Class for his efforts in supplying the German troops on the Western Front with water. He was teaching at the University of Giessen when he was called up for military service in 1941. At first he was in charge of a cartographic unit stationed at Granville before being moved to Jersey in August 1941. His task involved producing a report relating to the geological structure of the island, its building material , mineral resources and water supply. These factors were an important part of the plan to fortify the Channel Islands. At the weekends Klüpfel relaxed from his military duties by undertaking private geological studies. He appears to have left Jersey around the time of the D Day landings in June 1944. After the war Klüpfel returned to the University of Giessen and later the University of Marburg. He died on16 September 1964.
Even as the war continued, plans were drawn up for what work the Survey would be doing once peace finally came.