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Wanted: Cold War volunteers for Teesside University research

07 April 2011 @TeesUniNews


Dr Matthew Grant, a senior lecturer in history has secured a research grant from the British Academy to explore the experiences of former volunteers and is looking for up to 30 individuals to interview.

Half-a-million people joined the UK’s Civil Defence Service Volunteer Group, set up after the Second World War. The Group, which also included the Auxiliary Fire Service, was established in 1949 to help protect the country in the event of World War III. It was disbanded in 1968 by the Wilson Labour government due to financial constraints. Until now the experiences of those who chose to join the Group have never been recorded.

Dr Grant said: 'This was a really big group of people joining over a 20-year period, half-a-million people is a significant collective act of voluntary action. Most people now don’t even know this organisation existed. It’s an aspect of British history that’s been forgotten, yet hundreds of thousands of people stepped forward and put their time and effort into this group.

'The backdrop to their everyday lives is that they lived in fear of nuclear war, is this why they joined? There are no records as to why volunteers joined up, what their experiences were and what they thought about the Cold War period. There was a gender dynamic to the Group, more women than men joined, why was this? Did they join as they had previous experience of serving in the Second World War? It was also largely a rural phenomenon and a social aspect to membership which I’d also like to explore.'

Contact Dr Grant Interested former volunteers can contact Dr Grant by emailing him at, call 01642 384075 or write to him at the University’s School of Arts & Media, Teesside University, Middlesbrough, Tees Valley TS1 3BA.

Dr Grant first examined the Group as part of his PhD at Queen Mary’s University, London. He added: 'This will be the first time that volunteers from the Group have been asked to come forward for interview, nothing has been done before. I and a team of research assistants are looking to interview 30 former volunteers, mainly in the North-East, including the Tees Valley, North Yorkshire and Tyne and Wear. The interviews will be anonymous, face-to-face and last no more than two hours.'

The research results will appear in an academic article to be published in 2012.

In the News

Cold War study
Leicester Mercury, 06/04/2011, p.16
Dr Matthew Grant, of Teesside University, has called for information from people who served in the Cold War civil defence services between 1949 and 1968. The information will be used as part of a rese

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Evening Gazette (Teesside), 14/05/2011, p.24
Matthew Grant, senior lecturer in history at Teesside University, has secured a research grant from the British Academy to explore the experiences of former volunteers of the Civil Defence Service Vol

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The Times, 04/07/2011, p.9
An historical article by Dr Matthew Grant, Senior Lecturer in History at Teesside University, who says the importance of atomic testing to Britain's defence policies over the last six decades cannot b

Campus round-up
Times Higher Education Supplement (Web), 14/04/2011
Matthew Grant, Senior Lecturer in History at Teesside University, is seeking Cold War-era volunteers to take part in a new research project.

Tell Your Story
Evening Gazette, 13/04/2011, p.16; Gazette Live (Web), 13/04/2011
A Teesside University researcher has called for Cold War volunteers to take part in research. Half-a-million people joined the UK's Civil Defence Service Volunteer Group, but the experiences of these

Appeal for help with Cold War project
Derby Evening Telegraph, 03/05/2011, p.10
Dr Matthew Grant, of Teesside University, is seeking volunteers for an oral history project on civil defence in the Cold War.

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Sunday Sun (Newcastle), 01/05/2011, p.50
Dr Matthew Grant, a history lecturer at Teesside University, comments on the historical role of the Sackville Road control centre in Heaton, Newcastle. The centre was part of a group of locations that