Letter to Imperial College, London

From Ken Glover, Ph. D. Class of 1948 and 1950

In response to your request for information about student life during WWII in the Forties, I am attaching a few notes for you information.

The photo (not available) is of the Class of 1948 Chemical Engineers standing on an obsolete apparatus used by Professor Bone in the late 1930’s. (The Chemical Engineering Department at that time was known as “The Boneyard.”) Several of these students have died and the rest are all in their eighties or nineties. The only significant member of the class is the chap in the front row wearing a City and Guilds scarf. He is Professor Roger W. H. Sargent, with whom I shared a basement flat in World’s End, Chelsea. He eventually became Head of the Chemical Engineering Department. He is retired but still monitors a few students and has received several academic honors in the U.K.

This class graduated in two parts, 1948 and 1950. 60% of us who failed to reach the top 10% of the class were released from draft deferment. About fifteen of us were almost immediately drafted into the post-war Army and re-met at Primary Training Camp at Tidworth in Wiltshire. (The paperwork was apparently sent off together.) We were, in effect, run off from Imperial College to make room for returning troops who had been fighting the war and who now had financial aid called Further Education Training Awards (equivalent to the G.I. Bill). This gave them money for a four year college term. For me personally, this allowed me to do my two years in the Army and return to Imperial College in 1948 with the same four years of funds and only two years to go; I was able to graduate with a B.Sc. in 1950 and still had money to stay on and do research in the Low Temperature Lab under Professor G. G. Haselden and get my Ph.D. which I was able to do by 1954.

It was interesting being at the Chemical Engineering Department during WWII. The Head of the Chemical Engineering Department was Professor Newitt and he was on Winston Churchill’s “Dirty Tricks” Committee which was called on to suggest subversive ways to aid in the war effort. On being asked by Winston who could do the most damage if dropped behind enemy lines, he was told without hesitation, “a Chemical Engineer,” so he searched out Professor Newitt.  A rather dubious item for chemical engineers to have on their resumes.

On returning from two years in the Army in 1948, I, with the help of Roger Sargent, re-founded the defunct Golf Association in 1949. I was captain for two years and, together with Dick Heenan, got to play occasionally on the University of London Golf Team. I must admit I got called frequently, more because I had a car and could transport three other team members, than for my golf skills. We played against the provincial Universities of Oxford and Cambridge as well as many of the top clubs around London. I donated a silver cup for annual competition but one of the later recipients apparently did not know it was for only one year, because when I inquired in 1960 about the Glover Cup it was no longer in existence.

A few other recollections

I was in the group that rang the bells of the Institute Tower on VE Day. I remember sitting uncomfortably on a beam inside one of the bells opposite Boris Anderson and pushing the clapper towards each other and dodging it on its return to hit the bell with a deafening roar. We both escaped the police waiting at the bottom of the Tower but several blokes got caught and spent a night in jail.

I also remember painting the Guilds emblem on the side of the college car, Beauanerges. Also, I painted the big C. and G. spanner for one of the annual inter-college Morphy Cup boat races at Putney. I am sad to say that our spanner was thrown into the Thames by some rather unruly and unkempt Miners. Only by being fast on our feet did we avoid the same treatment. (I always felt that the School of Mines should have been affiliated with some trade school rather than with an elite body that included City and Guilds and the Royal College of Science.)

I was also there on “Doubleday Pie Day.” The refectory in the City and Guilds College during the war regularly served Doubleday meat pies. Since meat was still rationed there was always concern about the contents of said meat pies. This led to Doubleday Pie Day which was celebrated in the middle of Exhibition Road principally with a huge banner across the street showing students running all over catching cats and dogs and throwing them into a large Doubleday pie machine. Apparently the company sued the college but we always believed the suit was settled by the college extending the pie contract, because we were still eating the pies years later. Unfortunately, the local police got into the act and took down the banner in a less than careful manner. Otherwise, this masterpiece would have been preserved in one of the local galleries.

Another memory was of me coxing the Imperial College Boat Club’s second eight in 1945 and 1946 at the Thames Head of the River race, which the first eight won, and at several summer regattas, town by town, up the Thames. This included Henley at which Imperial College won what was called the “Grand Challenge Cup” most years except during the War.  During and even after the war, dead bodies could often be found in the Thames and my second eight was unlucky enough to run into one of these during a training row. I remember there being a long discussion with Charles, the Boatman as to whether we should take it to Putney where the reward was ten shillings or whether we should row it up to Hammersmith where the going rate was one pound.

My girl friend, Doris, who is now a wife of 64 years, and I were present at the 1952 Coronation Ball in the Albert Hall. We also attended several college carnivals over the years. One in particular that I remember was when we chose as carnival queen Gorgeous Gussie Moran of Wimbledon lace panty fame. Princess Margaret was queen at another carnival while I was there.

All for now. I hope some of this sparks your interest. Thanks for the opportunity.

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