Resource for teachers

How is the First World War Remembered?

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KS 1-2

This resource has been developed to look at the many ways the First World War has been remembered, many will connect with children's experiences of remembrance and commemoration today.

1. How did people mark the end of the First World War?

  • Where did people go when they heard that the First World War was over?

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    Remembering together
    Q 69032

    When the end of the First World War was declared, on Armistice Day, many people went out on the streets to celebrate with others. Dennis Barker was a child living in London during the First World War. By the end of the war he had left school and was working as a messenger. Listen to what he remembers about Armistice Day. He talks about going to Trafalgar Square, along with crowds of other people, for “the adventure”. 1 minute 35 seconds

  • How did civilians get to see what the First World War was like?

    Remembering on the streets
    Q 31243

    Captured weapons were often displayed in well-known places to encourage people to contribute to the war effort, and also to emphasise British and Allied success. After the war there were mixed feelings about this, joy and celebration, but also sadness for all those who had lost loved ones. Here a boy is sitting on the barrel of a captured German gun on show in London. 

2. How did local communities remember those killed in the First World War?

  • How did communities remember soldiers killed in the First World War?

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    Remembering names
    MGH 4153

    At the end of the First World War records were kept of all the names of those killed in the war. It was important that their names were not forgotten. Inscribing names in a book or on a memorial created a place for people to go and remember those they had lost. This news film from 1938 shows a ceremony to mark the unveiling of a memorial in a local church. This happened twenty years after the end of the First World War.

  • How did communities create places to remember servicemen and women killed in the First World War?

    Remembering in the streets
    HU 58985

    Because of the large number of casualties in the First World War, in Britain most bodies were not brought home to be buried. Therefore  people needed places to go, different ways to remember loved ones and the sacrifice they had made. Shrines were made in some streets as places to remember local servicemen and women who served in the First World War. This shrine is in London where an outdoor church service is being held. 

3. How do museums help people remember the First World War?

  • How have museums helped people remember the First World War?

    Remembering in the museum 1919
    Q 28577

    The First World War was documented by photographers and artists. These children are looking at official war photos from an exhibition called ‘See the War’ at the City Art Gallery in Leeds in 1919. Five thousand school children saw this exhibition. Photos in newspapers and magazines were one of the main ways people got to see how the First World War was happening. 


    Remembering in the museum 1920
    Q 17031

    The Imperial War Museum opened a permanent building in 1920. It was founded to record the events of the First World War and the contributions made by all sections of society, to provide an account of war rather than be a memorial. In the first four years, four million people came to the museum, many of whom came to see displays connecting to what they did in the war, with objects relating to the military services, women, children, medicine, munitions and more.

  • How do museums help people remember the First World War today?

    Remembering in the museum today

    Imperial War Museums’ purpose is as a museum rather than a memorial but it can be a place of reflection. Today the museum has displays about the experience of many different wars and their impact on people’s lives. The First World War is now beyond the memory of anyone alive today, it is therefore important that stories about it continue to be told. One hundred years after the start of the First World War the IWM London opened a new gallery about it, seen in this photo. 

4. How was the First World War remembered in people’s homes?

  • What were families given to commemorate the loss of their loved ones?

    Memorial plaque presented to the next of kin of Nurse Winifred Stanley Coates, British Red Cross
    Remembering in the home
    EPH 4139

    In the First World War ‘Next of Kin Memorial Plaques’ were issued to families who had lost their loved ones on active service. It was nicknamed the ‘Dead Man’s Penny’ because it looked similar to a bronze penny coin, although the plaque is 12cm in diameter. This one was made for Nurse Winifred Stanley Coates who died in 1916 having contracted a serious illness serving in Malta with the British Red Cross. In addition the family received one for Winifred’s sister Edith, who also served with the Red Cross.

  • How did some people record of the First World War at home?

    E Bilbrough War Diary, hand drawn flags
    Ethel Mary Bilbrough, her War Diary 1914-1918

    Ethel Bilbrough’s diary was found in a clear out after her death in 1951. Monday 11th Nov 1918: “Today has been a truly wonderful day, and I’m glad I was alive to see it! From the moment one got out of bed, there was a sort of feeling in the air that something was going to happen! All of a sudden the air was rent by a tremendous BANG! My instant thought was – a raid! But when another great explosion shook the windows, and the hooters at Woolwich began to scream like things demented, and the guns started frantically firing all round us like an almighty fugue, I knew that this was no raid, but the signing of the armistice had been accomplished! The end had come at last, and the greatest war in history was over.” 

5. How have paintings been used to remember the First World War?

  • Gassed

    A line of soldiers being led along a duckboard by a medical orderly.
    Gassed by John Singer Sargent
    Art.IWM ART 1460

    Sargent was asked by the British Government to produce a painting for a planned Hall of Remembrance, a place where people could go to remember their loved ones. ‘Gassed’ is 6.5m wide, and is based on lines of soldiers seen at dressing stations after mustard gas attacks. The Hall of Remembrance was never built as there was not enough money and the painting was given to the Imperial War Museum and put on display in 1919.  

  • To the Unknown British Soldier in France

    To the Unknown British Soldier in France by William Orpen
    Art.IWM ART 4438

    Orpen was asked to produce a painting for the Peace Conference at Versailles after the First World War. This painting shows a coffin holding the remains of an unknown soldier draped in a Union flag. Rather than paint the politicians and military leaders, Orpen wanted to paint a tribute to the soldiers who had served and lost their lives in the war. On top of the flag you can see a Brodie helmet worn by soldiers, designed especially for the First World war.

6. What souvenirs were kept to remember the First World War?

  • Why were souvenirs made during the First World War?

    First World War British ceramic novelty money box
    War souvenirs
    EPH 3797

    People wanted to own a piece of history. Souvenirs were made during the First World War as propaganda and to raise money, encouraging people to save for the war effort. This pottery money box was inspired by the success of the tanks on the Western Front. (Tanks were new weapons in the First World war). The money box was designed to be funny, ‘Kaiser’ refers to Wilhelm II, the German emperor at the time.

  • Why did a soldier keep this damaged cigarette case?

    Shrapnel damaged cigarette case
    Keeping souvenirs
    EPH 1308

    Not all souvenirs were made especially for the occasion. Many soldiers returning home brought things back with them as a reminder of their time in service. Rifleman W S Main was carrying this cigarette case when he was struck by a shell fragment, a piece of shrapnel. The case bore the brunt of the shrapnel’s force and prevented Main from being seriously injured.