Keele Hall and the surrounding estate were requisitioned by the military during World War II, with a temporary camp being built for British (and sometimes American) troops, notably those recently evacuated from Dunkirk. According to one Philip Higson, a man who spent much of his childhood in Keele, war had never seemed such a genuine reality until the arrival of a host of ‘gum-chewing’ and ‘cigar-smoking’ American soldiers into the Keele area in 1944.
During the war, the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes (NAAFI) provided canteens, shops and other facilities for the British Armed Forces on military bases across the country, including the camp at Keele. NAAFI crockery was mass produced during wartime and this cup was possibly manufactured by local company ‘Wood & Sons’ of Burslem.
When the Stoke-on-Trent Corporation purchased Keele Hall and its surrounding estate in 1948, it was faced with the task of finding uses for the multitude of buildings and huts left by its wartime occupants. With the establishment of the University College, many of the huts were converted into student accommodation, whilst other buildings were repurposed as the Students’ Union, Refectory and Chapel. The superior American barracks huts remained in active use on campus for four decades.
It is amazing to see reminders of our unique history still being discovered around campus to this day, who knows what else could be hidden!