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Japan and the University of Glasgow during the early 20th century

By Eriko Ueno, MLitt History of Art postgraduate student, University of Glasgow

The first consultation between Ito Hirobumi (later to become the first Prime Minister of Japan) and William John Macquorn Rankine (then Regius Chair of Civil Engineering and Mechanics at the University of Glasgow) took place during the early period of Japan’s Meiji restoration; and this meeting marked the beginning of the fruitful relationship between Japan and the University of Glasgow, particularly in the field of engineering science. Ever since the 1870s, many Japanese students obtained their expertise at the University and later contributed to their home country’s rapid modernization.[1] As part of my Club 21 internship with Glasgow University’s Great War Project in the University of Glasgow Archives, I have come to discover that this flourishing relationship kept alive around the time of the First World War, too. In 1914, Japan allied itself with Britain and the Entente Powers, providing naval support and taking action against Germany’s Pacific territories.

On the occasion of the centenary of the First World War (2014-2018), Glasgow University’s Great War Project is providing a deeper understanding of the University’s experience, by sharing stories of its alumni and staff members who lived during the wartime. As an international student from Japan, I was offered a valuable opportunity to be involved in the project and received a fascinating assignment to research the Japanese students who studied here in Glasgow around the time of the First World War. Through my research, I have found that many of Japanese international students studied engineering science and later assumed important roles both at governmental organisations and private companies in relevant fields in Japan.

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The Battle of Jutland

By Dr Jen Novotny, Research Assistant, Glasgow University’s Great War Project

Today we mark the 99th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland, the only full-scale naval battle of the First World War, which saw Admiral Jellicoe’s Grand Fleet meet the German High Seas Fleet in the North Sea on 31st May 1916. While the losses of ships were comparable, the Allied fleet suffered the greatest loss of personnel. The impact of the battle on the war has been debated by historians, but it is agreed that the battle failed to shift the balance of power and the Royal Navy remained dominant; the High Seas Fleet spent the rest of the war bottled up in the Baltic, unwilling to risk another costly engagement. Instead, Germany’s naval strategy for the North Sea and Atlantic concentrated on U-boat action.

Jutland: Glasgow’s Contribution

It is worth highlighting just some of the many connections between the battle and the West of Scotland: the Clydebuilt ships at Jutland that were the work of the men and women of the industrial sector, as well as looking at several individuals who fought in the battle. The First World War is so often spoken of in statistics – numbers that tend towards hyperbole and become meaningless. It is useful to personalise these numbers, contextualising the Battle of Jutland by evoking places with which we are familiar and learn about persons with whom we can identify.

Clydebuilt ships at Jutland

There were a number of Clydebuilt ships at the battle, including the Queen Elizabeth-class battleship HMS Barham, and battlecruisers HMS Tiger and HMS Inflexible built by John Brown Engineering at Clydebank. William Denny & Brothers of Dumbarton produced the destroyers HMS Petard, HMS Ardent, and the HMS Engadine, the seaplane carrier from which the first heavier-than-air reconnaissance flight during a naval battle was launched.

UGD003/5/501

Contract for Ardent. University of Glasgow Archives Reference: UGD003/5/501

Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company of Greenock produced the HMS Colossus, flagship of Rear-Admiral Ernest Gaunt, while Alexander Stephen & Sons in Govan built the destroyer HMS Nomad.

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