Medical education in London during 1939-41, with special reference to the Blitz

Med Educ. 2006 Mar;40(3):235-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2929.2006.02388.x.


Introduction: This article is concerned with medical education in London during 1939-41. It is set against the London Blitz, an event that was then unique in its subjecting of civilians to an intense and prolonged aerial bombardment. Its very uniqueness ensured that medical students, like others in the capital, had no set rules of conduct with which to govern their response to death and destruction on such an unprecedented scale in an urban area.

Evacuation: For students at London's world-famous medical schools, the outbreak of war in 1939 resulted in the execution of evacuation plans formulated during the 1930s; these are outlined in the text. The London teaching hospitals and their attached medical schools were removed to sector hospitals and, in the case of the medical schools, to universities and colleges in areas deemed to be safe.

Medical teaching during the war: Just as the schooling of children evacuated from Britain's big cities was subject to considerable disruption during this period, so was medical education. This article attempts to both chart the effects of these difficulties and study the manner in which the medical schools and, more particularly, London medical students, overcame them. Emphasis is placed on the dramatic months of the Blitz, not least because of the moulding effect such a sudden experience of warfare must have had on the very young, mainly male, students who lived through it. Finally, mention is made of some of the medical innovations the improvisations of the Blitz brought about.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical / history*
  • History, 20th Century
  • London
  • Schools, Medical / history*
  • World War II*