Voices of the First World War is a podcast series that reveals the impact the war had on everyone who experienced it, through the stories of the men and women who were there. 

The beginning

Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife photographed shortly before their assassination during their official visit to Sarajevo, 28 June 1914.
© IWM (Q 114772)
First World War

Voices of the First World War: The Shot That Led To War

Episode 1: Hear the story of how an assassination set off a chain of events that led to war and changed the course of lives around the world.



1st Battalion, Irish Guards prepare to leave Wellington Barracks, Westminster, London, following the outbreak of the First World War, 6 August 1914. © IWM (Q 66157)
© IWM (Q 66157)
First World War

Voices of the First World War: Outbreak – 4 August 1914

Episode 2: After weeks of speculation and mounting tension, Great Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914. Hear how people reacted to this news in episode two.

Recruits wait for their pay in the churchyard of St. Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square, London, August 1914.
© IWM (Q 53234)
First World War

Voices of the First World War: Joining Up

Episode 3: When war broke out in August 1914, Britain’s regular army numbered only 250,000. A recruitment campaign was immediately launched to swell the ranks. Hear about the effects of the recruiting drive on young men of Britain to join the army.

A group of eight prisoners pose for the camera at Ruhleben camp. The man on the right has a pipe in his hand.
© IWM (Q 102947)
First World War

Voices of the First World War: Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Episode 4: Hear the stories of many people who were on holiday in Europe when war broke out and found themselves in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Soldiers of Kitchener's Army doing physical training exercises at Branksome near Bournemouth.
© IWM (Q 53581)
First World War

Voices of the First World War: Training For War

Episode 5: Learn about the tough training programme new recruits had to undergo when they signed up to fight for their country.

General view of the Base Camp. Le Havre, 1914.
© IWM (Q 53106)
First World War

Voices of the First World War: Off To The Front

Episode 6: Within days of the outbreak of war in 1914, armed forces across Europe were mobilised. Hear British soldiers recall their departure for war as they prepared to leave home and made their way to the front lines.


A column of German field artillery on the march during the advance into France, September 1914.
© IWM (Q 56553)
First World War

Voices of the First World War: Into Battle

Episode 7: As soon as war began in August 1914, the belligerent nations in Europe sent their troops into battle. Hear the men who were sent to the fighting front when war broke out describe their first battles.

Journalists share a meal with troops at a roadside mobile army kitchen on the Western Front in October 1914.
© IWM (Q 53384)
First World War

Voices of the First World War: Over By Christmas

Episode 8: One of the most popular sayings of 1914 was that the war would be ‘over by Christmas’. Hear from some of those who experienced the first months of war explaining just how wrong that prediction was.

British and German troops meeting in No-Man's Land during the unofficial truce. (British troops from the Northumberland Hussars, 7th Division, Bridoux-Rouge Banc Sector). Burying those killed in the attack of 18 December.
© Harold Robson/IWM (Q 50720)
First World War

Voices of the First World War: The Christmas Truce

Episode 9: Hear the story that lead to the unofficial, spontaneous truce which took place along some parts of the Western Front during Christmas 1914.



Soldiers of the machine gun section of the 11th Regiment Hussars (Prince Albert's Own) in the trenches at Zillebeke, January - February 1915. The man wearing the balaclava is Corporal Peel, who went on to become the unit's Regimental Sergeant Major in 1930.
© IWM (Q 51176)
First World War

Voices of the First World War: War in Winter

Episode 10: As mobile warfare came to an end in 1914, both the Allied and German armies built trenches as a means of defence. Hear about life in the trenches and the freezing conditions for soldiers.

Admiral von Spee's squadron, SCHARNHORST, GNEISENAU, LEIPZIG, NURNBERG and DRESDEN, in line ahead off the Chilean coast. All but the DRESDEN were sunk in a battle with the British High Seas Fleet off the Falkland Islands, 8 December 1914.
© IWM (Q 50992)
First World War

Voices of the First World War: War At Sea

Episode 11: In 1914, the prosperity of Great Britain and its Empire depended on control of the world’s oceans. Since the start of the twentieth century, Britain and Germany had been locked in a bitter rivalry to build bigger and better warships. 

The remains of houses in Bentinck Street, King's Lynn, destroyed during the Zeppelin raid by Kapitanleutnant von Platen-Hallermund. 14-year old Percy Goate and 26-year old Alice Gazley died as a result of the raid, 19 January 1915.
© IWM (Q 53591)
First World War

Voices of the First World War: Zeppelins Over Britain

Episode 12: On 19 January two Zeppelins bombed the coast of Norfolk. Hear the people of Britain describe their first encounters of German airships as they sought refuge during air raid alerts.


Men of the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders wearing cotton-waste pad-respirators, 1915.
© The rightsholder (IWM Q 48951)
First World War

Voices of the First World War: Gas Attack At Ypres

Episode 13: On 22 April 1915, German forces launched a renewed offensive against the Ypres Salient. Their attack featured a weapon that had not been used before on the Western Front – poison gas. 

British troops and their artillery guns being evacuated from Suvla Bay on rafts in daylight, December 1915.
© IWM (Q 13637)
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Voices of the First World War: Gallipoli

Episode 14: At dawn on 25 April 1915, Allied troops landed at Gallipoli and spent months on the small peninsula of land guarding the Dardanelles Straits in modern-day Turkey. Hear soldiers recall what conditions there were like during some of the fiercest fighting of the war.

A raiding party of the 10th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) waiting in nap for the signal to go. John Warwick Brooke, the official photographer, followed them in the sap, into which a shell fell short killing seven men. Near Arras, 24 March 1917.
© IWM (Q 5098)
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Voices of the First World War: Trench Raids

Episode 15: Small raids on enemy trenches had begun in late 1914. As trench warfare evolved during the course of the First World War, so did the types of fighting. The British in particular thought it important for their front line troops to dominate no man’s land and remain on the offensive. 

A female munitions worker is lifted into the barrel of a 15-inch naval gun manufactured at the Ordnance Works, Coventry, during the First World War, in order to clean the rifling. September 1917.
© IWM (Q 30134)
First World War

Voices of the First World War: Munitions

Episode 16: As the First World War intensified, each belligerent nation found that more and more armaments were needed for its fighting forces. On the home fronts, workers were recruited for the growing number of munitions factories. 

British soldiers loaded with kit, as they arrive at Victoria Station, London, at the start of a period of leave.
© IWM (Q 30505)
First World War

Voices of the First World War: Home On Leave

Episode 17: Many men and women who served in the First World War spent long periods of time away from home. To reduce this sense of separation, leave was granted to lift them out of the monotony and dangers of active service.

General Charles Vere Ferrers Townshend KCB DSO (1861-1924) with Khalil Pasha and staff shortly after the surrender of Kut. Front row: Colonel Parr, General Townshend, and Khalil Pasha. Back row: Naum Bay, Captain W E T Morland, Naum Hava, and Faud Bey.
© IWM (Q 79344)
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Voices of the First World War: Mesopotamia

Episode 18: The entry of the Ottoman Empire into the First World War in October 1914 threatened British interests in the Middle East. The British government decided to send troops to Mesopotamia – present-day Iraq – to protect the valuable oil fields near Basra. 

Life in conflict

Young men from Cambridge University in a military gym class during the First World War.
© IWM (Q 30299)
First World War

Voices of the First World War: Sport In War

Episode 19: Sports and games were important to those who served during the First World War. Both when officially organised and on a more ad hoc basis, sport kept them fit and provided a welcome distraction from what was going on around them. 

The congested interior of a dugout 15 feet below ground. Steel girders support the ceiling with heavy uprights. Men are crowded in two layers.
© IWM (E(AUS) 1129)
First World War

Voices of the First World War: Trench Life

Episode 20: For most people, the phrase ‘First World War’ conjures up images of deep, waterlogged trenches and mud-spattered soldiers. But what was trench life really like? In this episode, those who survived it describe their experiences.

An Australian soldier writes a letter home from his billet on the Somme front, 1916.
© IWM (E(AUS) 30)
First World War

Voices of the First World War: News From The Front

Episode 21: In an age long before mobile phones and the internet, those who served in the First World War relied upon letters to keep them in touch with their loved ones at home. 

The interior of a cabin below deck with several wounded sailors, most swathed in bandages, laid out parallel to one another across the floor. They are tended to by three orderlies and one naval doctor who is standing on the right and has a stethoscope round his neck. Two of the orderlies are lowering a wounded man on a stretcher to the floor in the background.
First World War

Voices of the First World War: Jutland

Episode 22: The Battle of Jutland, on 31 May 1916, was the only major confrontation between British and German naval forces during the First World War. 

Trench mortar ammunition behind the lines. Acheux, 28th June 1916.
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Voices of the First World War: The First Day Of The Somme

Episode 23: The Battle of the Somme is one of the most famous military events in British history – synonymous with huge loss of life and costly failure. After months of deadlock on the Western Front, a joint British and French offensive was planned to break through the German lines north of the River Somme in mid-1916. 

The Battle of Flers Courcelette. The Mark I tank (D 17) surrounded by some of the infantry from 122nd Brigade whom it led into eastern part of Flers on 15 September 1916. Photograph taken on 17 September 1916.
First World War

Voices of the First World War: Tanks On The Somme

Episode 24: Since the onset of trench warfare, British military and political leaders had wanted to develop an armoured vehicle that could carry troops over the shell-holes and barbed wire-strewn battleground of the Western Front. 

Two British soldiers carrying their rifles and equipment photographed in the snow at La Boisselle, December 1916.
First World War

Voices of the First World War: Winter 1916

Episode 25: After the close of the Battle of the Somme in November 1916, the men on the Western Front dug in for the coming winter. That year, it proved to be exceptionally cold. Those who lived through the winter of 1916-17 recall memories of the bitterly freezing conditions.

The American tanker ILLINOIS sinks after being attacked by a German submarine
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Voices of the First World War: The Submarine War

Episode 26: Submarines played a significant military role for the first time during the First World War. Both the British and German navies made use of their submarines against enemy warships from the outset. Hear how a change in U-boat tactics by the Germans in February 1915 caused great resentment.

Battle of the Scarpe. British cavalry resting alongside the Arras-Cambrai road, April 1917.
© IWM (Q 2031)
First World War

Voices of the First World War: Arras And Vimy

Episode 27: By spring 1917, the heavy casualties of the previous year were putting the German Army under considerable strain. In March, German forces on the Western Front withdrew to a shorter defensive line that required fewer men to hold it, known to the Allies as the Hindenburg Line.

Counting the cost

Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5a aircraft of No. 85 Squadron at St Omer aerodrome, 21 June 1918. The serial numbers shown on the planes are from the front: C 1904, D 6851, C 1931, B 7870, C 1928, C 6486.
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Voices of the First World War: War In The Air

Episode 28: The First World War saw the use of air power in conflict on a large scale for the first time. Military aviation was still relatively new in 1914 and the Royal Flying Corps was very small in size but serving in the RFC was an attractive prospect for those living in the trenches on the Western Front.

The Battle of Pilckem Ridge. British soldier giving a cigarette to a badly wounded German lying in a ditch at Pilckem, 31st July 1917.
© IWM (Q 2629)
First World War

Voices of the First World War: Wounded

Episode 29: During the First World War, the mass mobilisation of civilian armies coupled with fighting on an industrial scale led to unprecedented numbers of wounded. Hear about the range of weapons used and the wide variety of ways that men were wounded. 

Miss Mairi Chisholm, one of the 'Women of Pervyse' looking through binoculars in Pervyse, 11 September 1917.
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Voices of the First World War: Women's War Services

Episode 30: From the start of hostilities in 1914, women contributed to the war effort. Initially, there were only a few voluntary organisations as well as some official schemes for them to join. But over time, the range of roles and the number of more formal services open to women gradually grew. 

Men of the West Yorkshire Regiment sitting in a captured German pill box waiting to go into action, near the St Julien - Grafenstafel road during the Battle of Polygon Wood, 26 September - 3 October, part of the Battle of Passchendaele.
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Voices of the First World War: Passchendaele

Episode 31: The Ypres Salient was one of the most intensely fought over sections of the Western Front. Hear about the British high command's plans in early 1917 to seize control of the area once and for all.

Loading a 60-pounder Mark II in action in the open at Caestre, 15 April 1918.
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Voices of the First World War: Gunners

Episode 32: Artillery played a huge role in the First World War and helped to shape how it was fought. Hear about the training new wartime recruits to the Royal Artillery had to undergo before being sent to the front. 

Photographs Part of IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM FILM COLLECTION Subject period First World War Alternative names object name: Film still object category: Photography Category photographs © IWM (Q 79508)  Purchase & License Share and Reuse This item is available to be shared and re-used under the terms of the IWM Non Commercial Licence  Object description Sequence 43 ("Taking papers from...") - 'shell-shocked' British soldier
First World War

Voices of the First World War: Shell Shock

Episode 33: The First World War was the first time that the psychological trauma of warfare was formally recognised both by doctors and society at large. The condition became known as ‘shell shock’. Hear about the varying experiences of the men who suffered the condition.

A driver taking mules to water, Salonika, September 1916.
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Voices of the First World War: Animals In War

Animals have played a role in armed conflict throughout history, and the First World War was no different. Hear how millions of horses were used by all the combatant nations to transport men, supplies and equipment, as well as how pigeons and dogs were trained to carry messages.

A service at a street shrine outside St Agnes' church in Acton Lane, London. Street shrines became an increasingly common expression of remembrance for the dead, particularly in working class areas, as the casualty list lengthened during and after the Battle of the Somme.
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Voices of the First World War: Life On The Home Front

Episode 35: The First World War had a profound effect on the lives of civilians. In Britain, people found themselves being gradually drawn into a conflict that had, at first, seemed remote. Hear about the main ways the war affected civilians.

Firing a 2.75 inch mountain gun in Salonika.
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Voices of the First World War: The Wider War

Episode 36: During the First World War British soldiers served on many fighting fronts. Hear about their experiences of being drawn into a truly global conflict that swiftly moved beyond its initial starting point.

Under pressure

A cartoon from the First World War period by Frank Holland "An Object Lesson: This Little Pig stayed at Home" depicting a lazy conscientious objector who stayed at home while the rest of his family contributes to the war effort. Holland, an artist, worked as a cartoonist for Lord Harmsworth from the 1890s until the First World War. His work appeared in various magazines and newspapers, including the Daily Mail.
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Voices of the First World War: Conscientious Objection

Episode 37: Around 16,000 men refused to take up arms or fight during the First World War for any number of religious, moral, ethical or political reasons. They were known as conscientious objectors. Hear soldiers recall how they were treated for resisting military service.

A soldier of the Machine Gun Corps in a sheepskin coat kissing a French farm-girl under a sprig of mistletoe, near Hesdin, 20 December 1917.
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Voices of the First World War: Christmas at War

Episode 38: Those who lived through the First World War experienced Christmas in a variety of ways. One of the most famous Christmas-time events was the truce that took place along some parts of the line on the Western Front in 1914. 

German troops practising with flamethrowers during a training session.
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Voices of the First World War: Weapons Of War

Episode 39: It was essential for soldiers during the First World War to be properly armed for combat. At the start of the war, members of the British Army trained with very basic weapons. However as operations grew in scale, weapons evolved to keep pace with them and to enable them to be fought.

The 2nd Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment being transported by bus through Dickebusch on their way to Ypres, 6 November 1914.
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Voices of the First World War: Logistics Of War

Episode 40: Those who served overseas in the First World War needed to be supplied with food, vital equipment and weapons, as well as being transported to, from and around the fighting fronts. Much of this essential wartime logistical work was undertaken by the Army Service Corps.

The Third Battle of the Aisne. German infantry reserves advancing towards the front line during the assault on the Chemin des Dames.
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Voices of the First World War: The German Spring Offensive

Episode 41: By early 1918, Allied troops on the Western Front were weary from years of launching failed campaigns against the Germans. Meanwhile the German Army was boosted by the arrival of men from the Eastern Front – and busy preparing for a huge attack.

The Battle of the Lys. Three British prisoners captured in Armentieres, 9-18 April 1918.
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Voices of the First World War: Prisoners Of War

Episode 42: Thousands of British and Commonwealth soldiers were captured by their enemies during the First World War. Unable to take any further part in the fighting, they became Prisoners of War, or POWs.

150 000 men passing the New York Public Library, watched by large crowds, during the Preparedness Parade in New York, 13 May 1916.
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Voices of the First World War: Arrival Of The American Troops

Episode 43: When war broke out in Europe in 1914, the United States of America adopted a policy of strict neutrality. They wanted to stay completely out of the conflict, but found this increasingly difficult due to Germany’s policy of unrestricted submarine warfare. 

Two members of 8th Royal Scots Fusiliers Concert Party singing a duet in an open air theatre, Salonika, April 1916.
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Voices of the First World War: Wartime Leisure And Entertainment

Episode 44: The men who served during the First World War didn’t spend their entire time fighting. They would often have to find ways to pass the long, tedious hours when nothing was happening. Hear about some of the popular games solider's kept themselves entertained with.

Final days

Battle of Canal du Nord. A 60pdr. firing in the dawn barrage, dimly seen field batteries go forward on the right, part of the British advance near Moeuvres, 27th September 1918. (See also Q 9324).
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Voices of the First World War: The Beginning Of The End

Episode 45: By the summer of 1918, the German offensives on the Western Front had stalled. The Allies suffered greatly in these attacks – but held on. By August, they were ready to launch an offensive of their own. 

Battle of St. Quentin Canal. Brigadier-General John Vaughan Campbell VC addressing men of the 137th Brigade (46th Division) on the Riqueval Bridge over the St. Quentin Canal (part of the German's Hindenburg Line) which they crossed on 29 September 1918.
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Voices of the First World War: The Allied Advance To Victory

Episode 46: After four, long years, fighting on the Western Front finally came to an end in the autumn of 1918. During the Hundred Days Offensive, Allied forces pushed the war-weary Germans into retreat.

A group of happy girls in an American automobile in London on the day the Armistice was signed, 11 November 1918.
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Voices of the First World War: Armistice

Episode 47: In early October 1918, Germany, no longer able to continue the war, approached the United States about an armistice. Many ordinary British soldiers on the Western Front recall having a sense that the war was drawing to a close.

British sentry along the riverside at Cologne, May 1919.
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Voices of the First World War: Homecoming

Episode 48: Although the armistice of November 1918 ended the war on the Western Front, the millions of men who were serving there didn't immediately return home. A demobilisation scheme was implemented, to ensure the gradual release of men from military service.

Troops of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry in a German trench, which they have captured, 11th June 1917. They are wearing German helmets, caps and other souvenirs.
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Voices of the First World War: A Total War

Episode 49: The First World War was a new kind of war. It was fought on a massive scale, and involved millions of people. Entire populations became engaged in a fight for survival. Hear how a number of factors made this new – total – war possible.

A British soldier stands besides the grave of a comrade near Pilckem during the Third Battle of Ypres, 22nd August 1917.
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Voices of the First World War: Legacy

Episode 50: For millions of people, the effects of the First World War did not cease with the end of hostilities in 1918. Physical and mental trauma endured long after the armistice and the economic, social and political consequences of the conflict were felt long into the future.