How did the First World War affect surveyors?

Cathy Linacre

Head of Reference Service (RICS)

The First World War does not appear in the transactions of the Surveyors' Institution (as RICS was then called) until November 1914, as the previous meeting had been in May - before the shooting of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the outbreak of hostilities.

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By the end of the war the Surveyors' Institution had lost 271 men, according to the Annual Report in May 1919, but its outbreak is marked in a solemn Edwardian style:

On no previous occasion, since the foundation of The Institution, has it fallen to the lot of your President to deliver his Opening Address in circumstances such as those which now surround us and fill our every thought. I need therefore, offer no apology for saying a few words about the great European war in which our country had been involved.

He goes on to talk about the members and institution staff who have already been called up from the territorial forces and those who have enlisted and he mentions the role the institution was playing in the Professional Classes War Relief Council which had been set up to co-ordinate the work of all the professional bodies’ benevolent funds. Even by the date of this address, 9 November 1914, six members had died including three on the same day at Ypres.

The RICS Library is currently undertaking a project to go through the Roll of Honour’s in the Transactions and trace where the men died and a little bit of detail about their lives. We hope to bring you some of their stories during the commemorations as well as looking at what was happening to the profession back at home. 

If you have any stories and photos of your own I would be fascinated to hear from you. You can email Cathy Linacre, Head of Reference Services at or add them using the form below. One story to be told is the effect on professional firms of losing staff to fight in the war and what happened to the company if they didn’t return. 

Surveyors in the First World War