Zuckerman Archive: Ministry of Home Security, Research & Experiments Department Oxford

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 1187 SZ/OEMU
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      61 boxes; 63 sub-series; 10.5 metres

Scope and Content

This series encompasses all of the research activities of the OEMU at Oxford, and much of the work of the London Casualty Survey. It also includes surviving papers relating to Zuckerman's work for Combined Operations Headquarters.

The work that Zuckerman and Bernal was doing, both separately and collaboratively, on the physiological, physical and psychological effects of German air raids on Britain led them into the new discipline of operational research, and both were appointed to the Advisory Group of the Research & Experiments Department's operational research wing, RE.8, established in June 1942 (see in particular Sub-series SZ/OEMU/50). Two months earlier, in April 1942, they had been recruited by Combined Operations to provide scientific advice to planners (see Sub-series SZ/OEMU/48).

Administrative / Biographical History

The Oxford Extra-Mural Unit of the Ministry of Home Security (OEMU) came into existence in late 1939 when the ministry's newly-created Research & Experiments Branch (later to be the Research & Experiments Department) commissioned research from the Department of Human Anatomy, Oxford University, on the physiological effects of ground shock waves and blast. The ensuing experiments were conducted by Solly Zuckerman and the findings published as a Civil Defence Research Committee paper The Effects of direct concussion on monkeys in underground shelters, RC 65, December 1939 (OEMU Report No.1).

OEMU was one of a number of groups in research institutions that carried out investigations on behalf of the ministry. It is likely that the choice of the Department of Anatomy at Oxford to carry out the necessary physiological research was influenced by Zuckerman's friend J.D. Bernal, already a member of CDRC and advising MOHS on aspects of air-raid shelter design.

The Unit was directed by Zuckerman under the general direction, until 1944, of the Professor of Anatomy at Oxford, Wilfrid le Gros Clark. At the Research & Experiments Department end direction of OEMU's research was in the hands of the Physics & Engineering Research section, RE.2, the head of which was Professor W.N. Thomas. The staff of the Unit were university personnel, with the exception of some members of the Casualty Survey field teams who were, from 1941, employees of the Research & Experiments Department.

An administrative history of the Ministry of Home Security is to be found in Cantwell, John D. The Second World War: a guide to documents in the Public Record Office, 2nd edition, HMSO, 1993 (Public Record Office Handbooks no. 15).


  • SZ/OEMU/1 Staff, premises and equipment, 1939-1946
  • SZ/OEMU/2 Research queries and correspondence, 1939-1962
  • SZ/OEMU/3 Blast, experimental, 1940-49
  • SZ/OEMU/4 Blast, human, 1916-1946
  • SZ/OEMU/5 Splinters, experimental, 1939-1946
  • SZ/OEMU/6 Splinter enquiry, 1940-41
  • SZ/OEMU/7 Bomb appreciations and casualty reports, 1940-44
  • SZ/OEMU/8 Concussion, 1939-1981
  • SZ/OEMU/9 Shock, 1940-43
  • SZ/OEMU/10 Asphyxia, 1940-42
  • SZ/OEMU/11 Gas, 1941-42
  • SZ/OEMU/12 Post-mortem problem, 1941
  • SZ/OEMU/13 Eyes, 1940-44
  • SZ/OEMU/14 Medical Research Council Air-Raid Casualties Committee, 1940-42
  • SZ/OEMU/15 Royal Society of Medicine Committee to Consider Means of Physical Protecton of Members of the Fighting Forces, 1940-46
  • SZ/OEMU/16 Ears, 1940-46
  • SZ/OEMU/17 General Ministry of Home Security correspondence, 1940-45
  • SZ/OEMU/18 Rothamsted Experimental Station, 1941-45
  • SZ/OEMU/19 Medical Research Council Military Personnel Research Committee Sub-Committee on Body Armour and Steel Helmets, 1940-45
  • SZ/OEMU/20 Medical Research Council Royal Naval Personnel Research Committee, 1946
  • SZ/OEMU/21 Medical Research Council Military Personnel Research Committee Sub-Committee on Weapons (Biological Assay), 1941-45
  • SZ/OEMU/22 Bombard research, 1941-43
  • SZ/OEMU/23 Civil Defence Research Committee - minutes and indexes, 1940-47
  • SZ/OEMU/24 Civil Defence Research Committee - general papers, 1940-48
  • SZ/OEMU/25 Civil Defence Research Committee - work of the Ministry of Home Security Research and Experiments Department, 1941-45
  • SZ/OEMU/26 Civil Defence Research Committee - Sub-Committee C, 1941
  • SZ/OEMU/27 Civil Defence Research Committee - blast papers,1940-45
  • SZ/OEMU/28 Civil Defence Research Committee - splinters, 1939-1945
  • SZ/OEMU/29 Civil Defence Research Committee - shelters, beams, and walls, 1941-44
  • SZ/OEMU/30 Civil Defence Research Committee - craters and ground shock wave, 1941-45
  • SZ/OEMU/31 Civil Defence Research Committee - mechanism of bombs, 1940-45
  • SZ/OEMU/32 Civil Defence Research Committee - miscellaneous papers, 1940-46
  • SZ/OEMU/33 Civil Defence Research Committee - window protection 1940-194?
  • SZ/OEMU/34 Civil Defence Research Committee - equivalent static pressures of blast, 1939-1944
  • SZ/OEMU/35 Civil Defence Research Committee - armour, reports, 1941
  • SZ/OEMU/36 Civil Defence Research Committee - air raid damage casualties, 1940-45
  • SZ/OEMU/37 Civil Defence Research Committee - incendiary bombs, 1941-44
  • SZ/OEMU/38 Civil Defence Research Committee - submarine explosions, 1940-44
  • SZ/OEMU/39 Civil Defence Research Committee - helmets, 1941-42
  • SZ/OEMU/40 Civil Defence Research Committee - elastic and plastic waves, 1941-42
  • SZ/OEMU/41 Civil Defence Research Committee - fire research and correspondence, 1945
  • SZ/OEMU/42 Body armour reports, 1943-45
  • SZ/OEMU/43 War Office DSWV1 Sub-Committee on Body Armour, 1943-45
  • SZ/OEMU/44 Correspondence with various departments, 1941-46
  • SZ/OEMU/45 Reports received, 1940-1980
  • SZ/OEMU/46 Ordnance Board, 1921-1946
  • SZ/OEMU/47 Fragmentation Panel, 1940-46
  • SZ/OEMU/48 Combined Operations Headquarters, 1942-1973
  • SZ/OEMU/49 Air Warfare Analysis Sections. Bombing errors and avoiding action, 1941-43
  • SZ/OEMU/50 Ministry of Home Security - Research and Experiments Department - RE.8, 1942-45
  • SZ/OEMU/51 Army Air Co-operation. War Office Sub-committee on Air Bombing in Direct Support of the Army, 1940-43
  • SZ/OEMU/52 Air Ministry Bombing Committee, 1941-43
  • SZ/OEMU/53 Naval casualties, 1942-44
  • SZ/OEMU/54 Army casualties and United States Air Force casualties, 1942-45
  • SZ/OEMU/55 Casualty Survey I, 1940-45
  • SZ/OEMU/56 Casualty Survey II, 1940-42
  • SZ/OEMU/57 Casualty Survey III - total effects of air raids, 1938-1961
  • SZ/OEMU/58 Casualty Survey IV - general papers, 1940-45
  • SZ/OEMU/59 Casualty Survey V - effects of blast; air raid effects on morale, 1939-1945
  • SZ/OEMU/60 Casualty Survey VI - distance sheets, 1945
  • SZ/OEMU/61 Casualty Survey VII - London County Council flats incidents, 1942-43
  • SZ/OEMU/62 Reprints collection, 1916-1944
  • SZ/OEMU/63 OEMU reports,1939-1948

Access Information

Certain medical and post-mortem records are closed.



Related Material

Accounts of OEMU's work can be found in:

Medical Research, HMSO, 1953, edited by F.H.K. Green and Sir Gordon Covell (Official History of the Second World War United Kingdom Medical Series)

Medical Research in War. Report of the Medical Research Council for the Years 1939-45, Cmd. 7335, HMSO, 1947

Astbury, A.R. History of the Research & Experiments Department Ministry of Home Security1939-1945 compiled from official sources, Ministry of Works, Division of the Chief Scientific Adviser (date unknown).