Memorialisation aside, our project’s focus on researching the university’s experience of the Great War will shed light not just on the experiences of those men and women who left to serve, most obviously in the military, the medical services or on the industrial home front (ammunition manufacture, etc.), but also on the running of the university during the war.
An area of key interest will be the role of the Officer Training Corps (OTC), which was founded to provide students with a taste of military life in the hope that they would join the forces upon graduation. In time of war the OTC played a key role in providing recruits, and not just as officers. Many local schoolboys joined the OTC in order to receive basic training prior to enlistment, and for some this represented their only experience of university life. That training included attendance at camps, established at places like Stobbs near Hawick. The University Archives house a rich seam of material relating to this activity, including several albums of photographs taken while at camp. I have had several present OTC members attend my History classes and one of them is currently carrying out research into the OTC’s Great War story for his undergraduate dissertation.
Outside this military activity, just how did the university function during the Great War? Was there debate as to the nobility and legality of the war? Was there a community of Conscientious Objectors among staff and students? How did the war impact on academic activity? Did the war provide opportunities for female academics? How did the University deal with the grief of losing almost 800 members of the community? These are just some of the aspects of home front life we hope to address during the life of the project.