The Western Front

Use these sources to learn about key battles and who fought on the The Western Front.

Download a PowerPoint presentation of this resource for your class, for KS3-4 upwards.

  • Irish Regiments

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    This silent film footage is an extract from IWM 212, which shows Irish Guards on the Western Front between 1915 and 1917.

  • Trench Warfare

    Trench Warfare
    Trench Warfare
    Q 6420

    This photograph was taken by official photographer John Warwick Brooke, on 12 January 1917.  It was taken near Cambrai in France and shows a British Army working party carrying duck boards over a support line trench at night. Trench systems were well organised and included support trenches and communication trenches, as well as the front line trenches themselves.

  • The Front Line

    The Front Line
    Q 8454

    This official photograph shows a soldier from the York and Lancaster regiment in a front line trench.  It was taken by Second Lieutenant Davis McLellan on 6 February 1918 near Cambrin, in France.  Trench warfare led to large periods of boredom, but even in the static conditions of trench warfare there was a constant threat from random shelling and snipers on both sides.

  • Life in the Trenches

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     This silent film footage is an extract from IWM 212, which shows Irish Guards on the Western Front between 1915 and 1917.

  • Artillery

    Artillery
    Q 51542

    This personal photograph was taken by Robert Cotton Money on 7 December 1914.  It shows the crew of an 18-pounder Field Gun in a gun emplacement on the Armentieres sector of the front line, in France.  Artillery was a crucial part of the war.  Most of the wounds soldiers suffered were caused by exploding shells.  Whenever infantry crossed no man’s land, they relied on artillery for support.  In the first year of the war artillery shells were  in short supply.  Only from the end of 1915 were guns able to fire heavy and sustained bombardments.

  • The Battle of the Somme: The Big Push

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    The Battle of the Somme: The Big Push
    Q 59

    This photograph was taken during the opening stages of the Battle of the Somme which began on 1 July 1916 .  It shows British troops in a support trench  waiting to advance. On the opening day of the battle alone, the British Army suffered 57,470 casualties, including 19,240 killed – its heaviest ever casualty toll in a 24 hour period.  In the sound recording (IWM 4171), Private Mason describes advancing towards the enemy line during the Battle of the Somme.

  • The Battle of the Somme: Bombardment

    The Battle of the Somme: Bombardment
    Q 36

    Before the first day of the battle on 1 July 1916, a week long bombardment of artillery fire from Allied guns was supposed to break the German defences.  Over 1,700,000 shells were fired but the guns were too spread out to be really effective and many shells didn’t explode.   This photograph shows a 15 inch howitzer being prepared for firing.

  • The Battle of the Somme: Bazentin Ridge

    The Battle of the Somme: Bazentin Ridge
    Q 3970

    The second phase of the Somme offensive began on 14 July 1916 with The Battle of Bazentin Ridge.  At first, this battle was a considerable success for the Allies, however as German opposition intensified the stalemate resumed.  This photograph was taken by Lieutenant John Warwick Brooke and shows a long line of German prisoners being marched into Fricourt in France.

  • The Battle of the Somme

    The Battle of the Somme
    Q 3987

    The Battle of the Somme continued until 18 November 1918 when it was finally called off. Although the Allies only advanced five miles, they learnt valuable lessons in how to fight the war and introduced new weapons.  This photograph, taken by Lieutenant John Warwick Brooke, shows a Lewis light machine gun in use in a front line trench near Ovillers, in France, which proved its effectiveness during the battle.

  • The Battle of Passchendaele

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    The Battle of Passchendaele
    Q 5935

    On 31 July 1917 Britain launched a major offensive at Ypres which is often called the Battle of Passchendaele after  the Belgian village where the battle ended four months later. The initial bombardment destroyed the drainage of the battlefield so when it started to rain heavily  on the first day, the battlefield turned into liquid mud, which made conditions very difficult.   This photograph, taken by Lieutenant John Warwick Brooke on 1 August 1917, shows a team of stretcher bearers struggling through deep mud to carry a wounded man to safety near Boesinge.  In the sound recording (IWM 4156), Cyril Lee explains the conditions during the Battle of Passchendaele.

  • The Battle of Passchendaele: Horses at the Front

    The Battle of Passchendaele: Horses at the Front
    Q 5941

    The mud was not just a problem for the soldiers taking part in the battle. This photograph was taken by Lieutenant John Warwick Brooke and shows two pack horses struggling through the mud near Ypres on  1 August 1917.  During the First World War horses were crucial for transportation, as they could be relied on to get food and equipment to the front line.  Horses pulled ambulances and guns and carried other heavy loads, like those shown here.  Around eight million horses from all sides died during the war. Other animals used on the fronts included dogs, mules and pigeons.

  • The Battle of Passchendaele: Ypres

    The Battle of Passchendaele: Ypres
    Q 2863

    During September 1917, the weather conditions improved and the Allies were able to push forwards. This photograph, taken by Lieutenant Ernest Brooks, shows German prisoners being marched through the Cathedral Square in Ypres, during the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge on 20 September 1917.  The ruins of the 13th century cloth hall can be seen in the background.

  • Occupying a Crater

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    This silent film footage is an extract from IWM 212, which shows Irish Guards on the Western Front between 1915 and 1917.

  • The Battle of Passchendaele: A Sea of Mud

    The Battle of Passchendaele: A Sea of Mud
    CO 2246

    The gains made during September encouraged the Allies to continue the offensive, but the bad weather returned and further attacks in October failed to make much progress.  This photograph shows men of the 16th Canadian Machine Gun Company holding the line in a landscape of mud and water-filled shell holes, in November 1917.  The eventual capture of what little remained of Passchendaele village on top of the ridge  by British and Canadian forces on 6 November finally allowed the offensive to be stopped in a position that could be defended over the winter.

  • The Battle of Passchendaele: Casualties

    The Battle of Passchendaele: Casualties
    E(AUS) 715

    The heavy fighting and difficult conditions during the fighting at Ypres in 1917  led to heavy casualties for both sides. Over four months there were 325,000 Allied and 260,000 German casualties. This photograph shows the scene inside an Australian advanced dressing station on the Menin Road on 20 September 1917.

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