Remembrance in the First World War

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  • Remembrance

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    Find out more about Remembrance from Mark Beautement, a historian working with the Ministry of Defence. This video includes archive film footage of Remembrance during the First World War.

  • A Makeshift Grave

    A Makeshift Grave
    Q 4316

    Over 16 million people died during the First World War.  This photograph shows a makeshift grave from the Battle of the Somme.  In the aftermath of the fighting, the grave has simply been marked with a small wooden cross and an inverted rifle, driven into the ground.

  • Body Density Maps

    Body Density Maps

    By March 1915, Graves Registration Units were officially recording where British soldiers were buried.    Body Density Maps like this one, which shows the area around Delville Wood, were created later to record the number of known burials.  These were used to help find, remove and rebury soldiers in the larger cemeteries.

  • The Cemetery, Etaples, 1919 by John Lavery

    The Cemetery, Etaples, 1919 by John Lavery
    Art.IWM ART 2884

    By 1919 there were many cemeteries in existence across the Western Front and the largest was the Military Cemetery at Etaples, in France.   In this painting the female staff of the Imperial War Graves Commission are tending the graves of the dead.

  • Wooden Cross

    Wooden Cross
    EPH 8612

    Traditional crosses like this one were often used to mark the graves of soldiers who had been killed in battle.This cross marked the grave of Gunner Reginald William Miller, who was killed in action on the 2 April 1918. He was buried at the Bienvillers Military Cemetery.  The cross was replaced after the war by an inscribed headstone provided by the Imperial War Graves Commission, which was established by Royal Charter in May 1917, and the cross was returned to his family.

  • German Cemetery on the Macedonian front

    German Cemetery on the Macedonian front
    Q 70281

    Other countries also established cemeteries for the dead.  In this photograph, which was taken in 1918, General Kuno von Steuben, of the 11th German Army, lays a wreath during the consecration ceremony of the German Military Cemetery at Prilep, on the Macedonian front.

  • Engraving Headstones

    Engraving Headstones
    Q 100870

    This stonemason is engraving a headstone for a Canadian casualty. The soldier who received this headstone has been identified as Private John Christopher Weatherhead, of the Canadian Army Medical Corps, who is buried in Doullens Communal Cemetery Extension No.1.

  • Street Shrines

    Street Shrines
    HU 58985

    As the majority of casualties were buried overseas, street shrines across Britain became increasingly common for people to remember and grieve for those who had died.  This photograph shows a service outside St Agnes' church in Acton Lane, London, on 18 November 1916.

  • Munitions workers in Swansea

    Munitions workers in Swansea
    Q 108454

    There were also casualties at home.  In this photograph female munitions workers walk beside the horse-drawn hearse of one of their colleagues who had been killed in their factory. They are wearing their working uniforms as a sign of respect, during the funeral procession through Swansea.

  • William Edgington

    William Edgington
    William Edgington
    HU 63249

    This is a photograph of William Edgington.  He was killed in action whilst serving as a second lieutenant with 62 Battery, Royal Field Artillery, on 8 May 1915.

  • Memorial plaques

    Memorial plaques
    Memorial plaques
    EPH 2114

    These British memorial plaques were given to the families of those who died on active service.  Each plaque included the name of the deceased and they were given to the next of kin. This one was issued to the family of  William Edgington. Six hundred plaques were issued to commemorate women who were killed overseas.

  • The Cenotaph

    The Cenotaph
    Q 31488

    This monument was originally built after the war as a temporary structure made out of plaster and wood.  It was erected for a parade in London which was held in  July 1919 to celebrate the signing of the official peace treaty.  It was called the Cenotaph, which means ‘empty tomb’, and was designed by Edwin Lutyens.  The monument was so popular that this permanent version was built in 1920.

  • The Unknown Warrior

    The Unknown Warrior
    Q 109517

    For the unveiling of the permanent memorial in  November 1920, the body of an unknown soldier was returned to London and reburied at Westminster Abbey.  The body had been selected anonymously from the main British battle areas on the Western  Front.

  • The Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey

    The Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey
    Q 31514

    The body of the unknown soldier was taken from the Cenotaph to Westminster Abbey in a procession led by King George V.  Here the body was buried, and the grave was filled in using soil from the French battlefields.  It  has provided a focus of mourning for people located in the UK ever since.

  • A poppy

    A poppy
    EPH 2313

    The American legion first used the poppy as a sign of remembrance in 1919, but the first poppy appeal in Britain was held in 1921.  As well as remembering the dead, the poppy appeal raised money to help those who had survived and were still living with the effects of the war. The poppy has become closely connected with the First World War and the great losses associated with it. Today, many people still buy poppies to commemorate the fallen.