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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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University Life (Oxford, 1942 to 1944)

by annegracejacques

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Anne Grace Jacques
Location of story: 
Oxford University
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
01 July 2004

My name during the war was Anne Lowe and I began reading Modern History at Oxford University in 1942. University courses were shortened in war time from three years to two, although medical courses were not abbreviated.

Whilst at Oxford, I worked at Queen Victoria’s stables. My boss was a rather plump female linguist who instructed us to “take to the gutter” or another suitable outdoor location if there was a Doodlebug alert. However, she also said that there wasn’t time for such nonsense and we should head for the shelter but not when the alarm sounded, rather when the Doodlebug’s engines had stopped. The shelter had a narrow doorway and during the first alert, I bolted for the shelter, only to jam with my boss in the doorway. “Miss Lowe” she said, “I meant AFTER ME”.

During our time at Oxford, we had to undertake ‘war tasks’. My first assignment was to scrub the corridor floor and being quiet naive, I had never scrubbed a floor before so I wasn’t very good at it. I then moved onto peeling beetroot for two hours a day which stained my hands indelibly. The alternative to peeling beetroot was peeling onions, which was far worse. My next war task was cleaning the shelves in the larder. However, the cheeses were far too heavy to lift so I wiped around them which inevitably left soap suds around the edges. I was eventually caught out and scolded. Other students were tasked to remove the tennis courts and plant potatoes. If you were served a bad potato at meal times, you were not allowed a replacement.

Having to undertake these tasks in addition to studying, meant that there was little time for boyfriends. Many of the University Dons were called up to work in the government and there was no suitable husband material among the remaining Dons.

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