Harris Manchester and the Second World War


Some of our most intriguing, and one might argue important, archival collections relate to activities that occurred in the College (then Manchester College) during the Second World War when the buildings were requisitioned by the Ministry of Works on behalf of Naval Intelligence.  

A specialised section of Naval Intelligence, the Inter-Service Topographical Department [ISTD], had been established early in the War and Manchester College soon became its Headquarters. Every available inch of space in the College was taken over by the section.  

Essentially, the ISTD created, gathered and analysed topographical and related intelligence to aid military planners in decision making. This sort of intelligence was absolutely critical in ensuring the success of many military manoeuvres, including the planning and execution of the D-Day landings.  

The importance of the work of ISTD deserves to be more widely known and more fully celebrated.  For that reason we are delighted that in 2024, on the 80th anniversary of D-Day, we are able to present an in-depth picture of what happened at Manchester College during the Second World War.  

Professor Ashley Jackson’s account draws on sources from the archive to provide a fully engaging description of the College during the War and brings to life a lesser-known but vital story. His book Oxford’s War 1939-1945 will be published by the Bodleian Library in the autumn.  




To find out more about the remaining papers, photos and reports that exist in the College archive by contacting the Archivist.   


A title sheet of a report with Detailed Schedule of Dilapidations, Manchester College Oxford, June 1947 on the cover
A typed page that sets out details relating to the Compensation Act and Manchester college
A shot of a cover of a book with a silhouette of a soldier in a tin hat with the union flag flying above their head