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  • Writer's pictureWF Flemington

Wartime at Wesley

During the war years, 1939-1945, the number of students gradually diminished because for several years the Conference was not accepting any candidates for the ministry. But the teaching at Wesley House did not cease. There were a few exempted from military service who studied there (at their own charges) and were later accepted for the ministry. As one after another the other Methodist colleges closed, their few remaining men who were taking external degree courses were sent to Wesley House to complete their studies. During 1943-1944 all five other Methodist colleges were ‘temporarily closed’; Wesley House alone remained open. During the following year, 1944-1945, even at Wesley House there was but a single student, a West African from the Gold Coast.

In the Report of the Ministerial Training Fund for 1943-1944, in the statement about students for 1944 beside the name of JW de Graft Johnson BA (West Africa) there is also the name of Thomas John Jones BA (Welsh). Mr Jones never actually came to Wesley House. Because of his illness he spent some time in a sanatorium and died in 1946, but his name is in “Hill’s List” as one of those who have “died in the work”.

For part of this period Mr Flemington served in the Cambridge Circuit, but continued, alongside his circuit work, some of his teaching at Wesley House. (In official Methodist records his period in the Cambridge Circuit was from 1943-1946 but, in fact, by permission of the President of the Conference, he returned to full-time work at the House in the autumn of 1945, continuing to preach in the Cambridge Circuit every Sunday until shortly before Christmas.)

During these war years Dr Flew remained in charge of the college property. At one stage the premises were on the point of being taken over by the Royal Air Force, but it turned out the limited accommodation in the dining hall preserved the college from requisition. When Jesus College was occupied by the Royal Air Force, university undergraduates were accommodated in Wesley House. For two terms at the very beginning of the war, when the Divinity School had been suddenly commandeered, the Wesley House lecture rooms were put at the disposal of the Divinity Faculty and used by Professors and University Lecturers. Dr Flew derived great satisfaction from the rubric in the University Lecture List, “Lectures will be delivered at Wesley House unless otherwise stated.” The Divinity Faculty were able, as the war went on, to make other arrangements at Mill Lane and elsewhere, but Wesley House had had its hour of glory!


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