Home front

With such a significant number of female members the Poly did not come to a standstill in 1914. The female, and indeed many of the male, clubs continued to run for as long as they could with the women taking over management of some of the men’s clubs. Dances and entertainments continued to be organised for those who had not yet enlisted or for soldiers on leave.

Those at home were also keen to aid the war effort. A war fund was established in September 1914 and by November that year £30 had already been raised. Through fundraising activities such as concerts, sporting events and donations the Poly raised £3,603 (over £155,000 today). The ladies also knitted socks, hats and jumpers and sent parcels to the enlisted men. More than 5,500 Poly Parcels were sent during the war. Polytechnic President JEK Studd (1858-1944) actively encouraged the women of the Poly to volunteer as nurses and the engineering workshops at 309 Regent Street were put to use by the Ministry of Munitions making various shells and parts of weapons, with extra machinery being brought in to cope with demand.

Although air raids and the bombing of London were more common during World War Two, it was still considered a threat during World War One. Due to its West End location the Poly had to brace itself. The 3 main dangers were fragments of shells causing damage, bombs exploding on impact, and unexploded bombs. The Poly was advised to put steel netting over vulnerable sections of 309 Regent Street, including the entrance hall skylight and the engineers’ shop, and to protect other areas with sandbags. Zeppelins did bomb London in January 1915 and German Giants attacked in December 1917. Luckily however, the Poly escaped unscathed.