On 1 September 1939 Hitler’s tanks rolled into Poland and World War 2 began.
JR Rees was appointed as consultant psychiatrist to the Army at Home, responsible for the mental health of approximately three million people. Many key figures from the Tavistock Clinic joined him in the army, becoming what was known as the ‘invisible college’. Together they were responsible for a range of important innovations. Selection processes were re-structured to keep people that would be prone to breaking down away from active duty.
Wilfred Bion developed his famous leaderless group to revolutionise the process of officer selection. The ‘invisible college’ worked on: training and morale, the interrogation of prisoners, propaganda for the enemy and clinical support for the army. Bion again, with the help of John Rickman, instigated a major piece of work supporting returning soldiers and prisoners of war – known as the Northfield Experiment, it was short lived, but became the basis of much future group work and therapeutic communities. Then, at the end of the war, key figures of the ‘invisible college’ played a role in the de-Nazification of Germany, helping to select new members of the government and administration, and promoting democratic processes.
During the Second World War, 44 members of staff from the Tavistock Clinic, including 20 senior staff, were called up into active duty. As World War 2 came to an end staff began to think about the future. A new generation from the Tavistock Clinic was eager to apply the new concepts and ways of working that they had learned during the war to the peacetime environment.
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