South East Schools First World War Project - Article 1

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Planning a First World War Centenary project for your school?

What high quality digital First World War resources are available online?

This year many schools will be commemorating the centenary of the First World War.  To help primary and secondary schools find resources to plan and deliver a challenging and exciting enquiry-based or cross-curricular project, South East Grid for Learning Associates have compiled this list of high quality digital resources.

Learning about the past - People & Events

These resources (which include archive film, photographs, audio collections, newspaper reports and personal memories) can be used by primary and secondary schools to support all the questions listed below:

  • What were the causes of the First World War?
  • What evidence exists today to show how the First World War impacted on the lives of people living in your local community?
  • What impact did technology have on the First World War?
  • What was trench warfare?
  • What roles did women perform during the First World War?
  • What important roles did Commonwealth and overseas soldiers play in the First World War?
  • How did governments use propaganda to influence public opinion?
  • What can we learn about the First World War from examining paintings and artworks and reading poems and novels?
  • How should we remember the First World War in 2014?

Listed here is a selection of the best World War I resources available online. Some have been created by leading educational providers. Others have been uploaded by museums, libraries and galleries that have received funding from the Heritage Lottery funding (HLF) or another recognised body. Often such grants include a commitment for the organisation to work closely with local schools.

For information about local World War I projects taking place in your local area click on the link below.

Searching and finding high quality First World War digital resources online

Listed here are 23 excellent websites to get you started. For more information about these and other First World War educational resources click on the link at the foot of this article and download the SEGfL First World War digital resources guide (PDF.)

Using Archive films in the classroom

Short film clips can be used as a starting point for local study projects (e.g. War Memorials) or used to research a particular historical event (e.g. the Battle of the Somme) or a key figure in history.

However, if you are looking for archive films about your local area from the period before, during and after the First World War then contact either The Wessex Film & Sound Archives (for schools in  Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Berkshire & Buckinghamshire) or Screen South-East if you are a school in Kent, Medway, Sussex, Surrey or Brighton & Hove.


British Film Institute

The screen online collection includes one hundred short films about the First World War. Topics covered include: The Home Front, Women in War Time and the War on the land.

National Archives

The National Archives First World War collection includes a large library of archive films and podcasts. Film titles include National Service and Women making munitions.

Imperial War Museum

Short interviews with IWM staff about propaganda, recruitment and the roles Commonwealth soldiers played in the First World War.

Screen Archives South-East

Film archive includes historical films about Sussex, Surrey and Kent

Wessex Film & Sound Archives

Film archive includes historical films about Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire

The First & The Last

Superb film about the conflict in Western Europe funded for the centenary by the Belgium Government.

Photographic images from the First World War

Many First World War photo collections can be viewed online.  Photographs can be used to generate discussion around a topic or as a stimulus to support writing.

Looking for a good First World War photograph collection?  Visit the National Archives image library to view the library of Women at Work photographs.

Have you considered uploading and sharing your own World War I photographs?

The National Education Network Gallery is a depository for images uploaded by teachers and pupils. To date, over 80,000 images are stored on the site including a set of folders devoted to the First World War and life in Britain at the start of the 20th Century.


Heritage Explorer

First World War photographic collections include Memorials, Women at Work and Transport

National Archives World War I image collection 

The collection features Ordnance photography and photographs of The Home Front & Women working on farms, in factories and on the railways.

NEN Gallery 

A collection of high quality First World War images that can be repurposed by teachers and students. 

IWM Photographs

A collection of 50 high quality digital images.  To access these resources schools must register as a centenary partnership member.

War Graves, Military Records and Census websites

Read the names inscribed on a local war memorial.  Then use the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database to find out in which regiment they served and to locate the cemetery where they are buried.  Planning to research the life story of a First World War soldier?  Search the 1901 and 1911 census to find out where they were born, information about their family and what they did before 1914.

Free access to the national census database

Access to Find my Past and for many is free if you visit your local library.  Check to find out if your local Museums & Libraries Service has an arrangement for registered library members to search and download information from these sites.


Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC)

Search the CWGC database to find out where First World War service personnel died and are buried.

Research the family history of men and women who were alive during the First World War.

Find my Past

Search census records dating back to 1841 and military records from the period 1914 - 1918

First World War Audio Library websites

An audio library might consist of soldiers' recollections about serving in the trenches.  Alternatively, the library might include extracts from fiction or non-fiction books or poems written by notable 20th Century poets like Wilfred Owen.

Create your own library of First World Memories

Stories about the First World War are often passed on by one generation to the next.  Consider inviting parents and grand-parents to drop in to your school and talk to pupils about events during the period that impacted on family life.

Need help recording and editing audio files? Visit the Audacity website.


IWM Podcasts 

A collection of 38 audio recordings about events associated with The First World War.

BBC History Soldiers' Story Audio Gallery

On this website actors read aloud diary extracts, memories and letters of those who fought in the war.

First World War Poetry digital archive

A set of podcasts created by the First World War Poetry Digital Archive Project at Oxford University.

BBC Wilfred Owen Audio Library

Listen to Wilfred Owen's poem "The Sentry" and extracts from a letter written to his mother in January 1917.

First World War Teaching & Learning resources

Planning a single activity or a 6 week project for primary or secondary pupils?  Then visit The National Education website. A selection of First World War projects found on the site is included below.


E2BN Picture

Use historical photographs to create impressive multimedia presentations.

E2BN Museum Box

Organise resources (text, audio, images and video) to create a persuasive argument about a person or an event

Battle of the Somme

6 easy to follow lesson plans for 13 - 18 year olds.

What impact did technology make on the First World War?

Explore how developments in technology led to changes in tactics, methodology and fighting in the 20th Century.

What was trench warfare?

Use the notes found amongst the papers of Lieutenant Colonel W D Lowe to see what it tells you about the theory of trench warfare.

Royal British Legion

The Royal British Legion education Pack can be used in the classroom to support topics linked to history, literacy, PHSE and citizenship.


Where else can I find high quality resources about First World War events that took place in my local area?

For resources and further information contact your Local Archives or Museum Service. Many offer school visits and some staff are available to visit schools and work with groups of pupils.

The First World War Toolbox website

And finally, book mark this site and e-mail details to colleagues. Developed by the South East Grid for Learning Associates, this is a "one-stop shop" for World War I that features all the resources listed in this article and many others; plus information about many World War I events and school projects taking place across the region.

Was this article helpful?

Look out next month for our second First World War Update for schools

What First World War educational projects are taking place across the region in 2014/15?

Interested in hosting a First World War digital training workshop in your school for staff? Contact Phil Bracegirdle (SEGfL Associates) for more information.