The Bank of England 1939-45 (Unpublished War History)

The impact of the Second World War on the Bank included an evacuation of over a third of staff to rural Hampshire, and many staff being granted war leave. John Osborne’s unpublished war history describes in detail the consequences of the Second World War on the Bank of England. 

John Osborne had already written a First World War history of the Bank, which he finished in 1926. Osborne retired in 1945 and the work of writing the history was taken over in 1947 by Ronald Allport.  

When Allport began work he found that the evacuation of the Bank to Hurstbourne in Hampshire had not been included. L. A. Gash, who had lived there throughout the war, and had been responsible for finding the accommodation and moving the Establishment Department there, was approached and spent two years writing this section. 

Allport completed the history in 1950 but at that point it was decided that the work would not be published. The typescript copy was subsequently bound into seven volumes, for which no index was prepared. The volumes are held in the Bank’s Archive.        

The main objectives of writing a detailed war history were:

  • To record the activities of the Bank of England during the war.
  • To give an indication of the influence that the Bank’s activities exerted on the decisions of others, in particular of Government Departments such as the Treasury.
  • To compile a record which might be useful to the Bank should a similar emergency arise at a future date.

As a result of researching and writing the history, Osborne expressed his concern about sources available to past and future historians of the Bank. He felt that the ‘segregation of important papers awaits the arrival of a permanent Archivist’. It was to be another 16 years before that post was filled.

This page was last updated 31 January 2023