Head of Department: Cecil Lander, Head of Mechanical Engineering 1931-1946


Engineering students (except Chemical Engineering) all still studied a joint first year together. This first year included Applied Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Engineering Drawing. Despite constant night alerts for air raids, union activities and sports clubs took place as usual during World War II. The original Boanerges was replaced in 1934 by a 1902 James & Browne, named Boanerges II, which was eligible for the London-Brighton Veteran Car Run and is alleged to be one of two of its type left in the world. 

In 1935, to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of active teaching work at the College, a jubilee open day was held in which visitors enjoyed experimental demonstrations of the wind tunnel, lathes, X-ray tube cooling and furnace gas measurements. Alumni gave lectures on their work, including structural welding, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the new invention of television.


During this time, Imperial became pre-eminent in Combustion and Heat Transfer, with pioneering work done by Owen Saunders and Margaret Fishenden. This research contributed to wartime studies into aircraft gas turbines, flame-throwers and airfield gas-burners. Flame-thrower research was conducted in the backyard behind the building, described as “decidedly hazardous, especially on windy days”3. During the war the College hosted the Engineering faculty from the University of Warsaw, and workshops were again requisitioned for weapon production. 

Meanwhile, in London...

Wartime student Pieter Grootenhuis, who went on to become a Professor of Vibration Engineering, described “a close escape” on Exhibition Road when a V1 flying bomb hit; the damage to the façade of the Victoria & Albert Museum is still visible. Final year students kept up the tradition of hosting staff to a farewell dinner in Holborn, the student chair’s speech only slightly interrupted by a major explosion on the street outside. Students could find their way around the London Underground using the now familiar stylised Beck map, first printed in 1933.


Current City & Guilds mascot Boanerges, or Bo' (seen here with its 2002 team) replaced the old Boanerges in 1934

Staff, third and fourth year students, 1944-45 session

Waterhouse building at night

The Waterhouse building at night, 1935

Class photo 1930

Staff, 2nd and 4th year students, 1930-1931


The Lifebuoy man-portable flamethrower being demonstrated to British soldiers, 1944

London Blitz damage

1940s Blitz damage in London, Oxford Street

Photo credits:

THE LONDON BLITZ, 1940. 1940s Cecil Beaton print of bomb damage to HMV (His Master's Voice) Gramophone Shop, Oxford Street, London, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Lifebuoy man-portable flamethrower being demonstrated to men of 1st Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers, Denmead, Hampshire, 29 April 1944. By War Office official photographer, Wooldridge (Sgt) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Boanerges & team by Neville Miles

All other photos from the Imperial College London archives