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World War One research

As the centenary of the end of the First World War approaches, preparations are underway to remember the millions that gave their lives in battle. The four years of the war between 1914 and 1918 remains one of the most significant periods in recent British history, affecting almost everyone in the UK and in all the countries involved.

Following the end of the war, a new world order emerged and we are still understanding and absorbing the implications of the momentous changes the war brought about. To help communities around the UK better understand the impact, the Arts & Humanities Research Council setup five engagement centres in 2014.

Formed of 26 universities and partner organisations like the Heritage Lottery Fund & Imperial War Museum, the centres have helped hundreds of community groups. The projects around the country have involved thousands of people, giving new insight and revealing untold stories as part of the commemorations.

Topics have included the role of women, the contribution of soldiers from Commonwealth countries and advances in medical care.

Ongoing projects

Voices of the First World War exhibition

The Library of Birmingham is hosting an exhibition which showcases all the community projects that have taken place over the past four years. Highlights include films produced by local theatre and arts companies that address difficult subjects like the soldiers who were executed for desertion and cowardice, history of the football teams formed by ‘munitionettes’ and artistic work made by young people who researched the changes in society that came as a result of the war. Visit the exhibition webpage

Wheathampstead during the Great War

The local history society is researching the experiences of village people at home and on service, looking at how they adapted to both war and peace. Visit the event webpage.

Visualising the Iolaire

HMY Iolaire sank off the Western Isles of Scotland on New Year’s Day 1919. It was carrying islanders who had fought in WW1 (predominantly from the Isle of Lewis). The final death toll was 205, of whom 181 were islanders. In total, 70% of those on the boat perished. The project aims to produce a virtual mapping of the tragedy. Identify the communities affected and how the lost are remembered. Visit the project webpage.

Harwich Haven – Surrender & Sanctuary

This project explores the unique role of Harwich, Dovercourt, Felixstowe and the Shotley Peninsula when the fleet of 100 German U-Boats surrendered there in November 1918. 

The project is working with volunteers to research this forgotten history, culminating in a series of commemorative events in November 2018 and into 2019. The key community activities include working with local people to create 160 unique pennants- one to mark each of the German U Boat’s that surrendered locally. These pennants will then be displayed on a willow U Boat that is to be created on the beach in Harwich. Visit the project website.

More information

Learn more about the engagement centre projects: