• Western Front
  • Age 9 to 11 (KS2)
  • Age 11 to 14 (KS3)

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.

 

CURRICULUM LINKS AND LEARNING OBJECTIVES

  • Challenges for Britain, Europe and the wider world, 1901-present - KS3/4.  
  • Warfare and British society, c1250-Present - GCSE.
  • To increase understanding of the people who fought on the Western Front during key battles of the First World War.
©IWM

Please note this video contains no sound

Irish Regiments

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

Photographs

Trench Warfare

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.

Photographs

The Front Line

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.

©IWM

Please note this video contains no sound.

Life in the Trenches

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

Photographs

Artillery

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.

Photographs

The Battle of the Somme: Bombardment

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.

Photographs

The Battle of the Somme: Bazentin Ridge

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.

Photographs

The Battle of the Somme

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.

Photographs

The Battle of Passchendaele

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.

Photographs

The Battle of Passchendaele: Horses at the Front

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.

Photographs

The Battle of Passchendaele: Ypres

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.

©IWM

Please note this video has no sound.

Occupying a Crater

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

Photographs

The Battle of Passchendaele: A Sea of Mud

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.

Photographs

The Battle of Passchendaele: Casualties

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.

Downloads

Explore Further

Adventures in History: Trench Tales - Part One
Home Learning

Trench Tales - Part One

Join IWM expert Ngaire this week as she helps us reveal fascinating personal stories from the First World War, from the trenches to the home front. 

 

A party of British soldiers being lead out of a sap
©IWM (Q 5100)
Classroom Resource

Living in the Trenches

Use these sources to learn about some of the challenges faced by people serving in different parts of the world.

Four Canadian soldiers, sleeping and writing letters in the trenches near Willerval.
IWM CO2533
Classroom Resource

Lives of the First World War: Trench Warfare

Discover what it was like to fight in the trenches through the lives of six individuals who were directly affected by trench warfare.

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