Selected by Patricia Methven, Director of Archives & Information Management


‘Diary of development of British respirator’, 1915-1919.


Albeit visually dull, this six page text charts British attempts to protect millions of men from the initially disabling, eventually lethal, gas attacks on the Western Front. It reflects the roles of serving and non-serving scientists seeking to develop methods of protection and neutralisation, guidance offered and withdrawn because experience suggested better approaches or the threat had changed, the early call to women on the Home Front to make a million cotton pads for the troops, the gathering of useful practical experience in the field, analysis of captured respirators and orders placed for hundreds of thousands of units to be supplied. As such it is an ultimately moving account of a dedicated endeavour led by Foulkes to address one of the evils of modern warfare.

Ref: Foulkes 6/44

Selected by Diana Manipud, Archives Assistant

Group Captain Albert Peter Vincent Daly was posted with 29 Squadron, when he was shot down over Achiet-le-Grand on the 1st February 1917 by Lt Werner Voss. Daly was wounded in the shoulder but had managed to glide his plane down albeit within enemy lines, and was immediately taken as a Prisoner of War. Initially, he was listed as missing and presumably killed, but on a list received from Berlin on 12th March 1917, the Prisoners of War International Agency notified relevant parties that Daly had been taken and had arrived at a POW camp in Stralsund-Danholm. Daly was exchanged into Holland for internment on May 7th 1918, and was finally repatriated on 31st August 1918.

Daly’s papers include this letter from a fellow officer to Daly’s mother, 17 Apr 1917, with an eyewitness account of Daly’s forced landing. The officer writes “…I understand from reports of other pilots that they were attacked by a German scout patrol far exceeding in numbers their own. Capt Daly himself who was leader put up a very fine fight but most unfortunately had his engine hit and had to come down”.  He goes on to say that Daly was “a very fine leader with oceans of pluck…I expect he will be treated very well, as all the R.F.C. seem to be. There seems to be a very different feeling between the two Flying Corps than between the infantry”. I find this letter interesting as you can really envisage the dogfight that went on between the planes!

Ref: Daly

Selected by Barbara Ball, Metadata Assistant

Lord Kitchener was appointed Secretary of State for War at the outbreak of the First World War.  He began a recruitment campaign for ‘volunteer’ regular troops. At that particular time mass conscription was somewhat frowned upon. The regular British Army recruitment campaign consisted of propaganda posters and various other forms of communication, which began in earnest in 1914.

At first recruitment was very successful: over 30,000 signed up to join the forces every day. At the outbreak of the War in 1914, the United Kingdom had 250,000 serving soldiers available, compared to Germany’s wartime army which numbered nearly two million personnel.

Among those volunteers were countless young men and boys under the age of 19 (the legal age for armed service overseas). These young men came to fight and die for their country - which seemed to turn a ‘blind eye’ to their age. The war was ‘sold’ to the general public with the idea that it would be all over by Christmas: it seems if a young man was fit and wished to serve his country then he would not be stopped.

I have chosen four recruitment posters used during the Great War to encourage volunteers to join the British Army to fight for their country. I found it particularly poignant that it is obvious the Government at the time did overtly or subliminally appeal to the patriotism of very young men and boys and as a consequence many thousands of under 19 year olds served and died in the battles of the Great War.

Ref: World War One posters

Selected by Lianne Smith, Archives Services Manager

The following items come from the papers of Lt Col Sir Albert Gerald Stern, whose roles during World War One included service with the Armoured Car Division of the Royal Naval Air Service, Secretary of the Landships Committee and head of the Tank Supply Department (later the Mechanical Warfare Supply Department).

His papers include many photographs of early tracked and armoured vehicles, tested and developed during the First World War. A selection can be seen here, including the American Killen-Strait tractor which inspired the design of early tanks with their caterpillar tracks; an armoured Rolls Royce; Tritton’s Trench Crosser; and the Mark I tank, otherwise known as ‘Mother’.

Although I know very little about tanks and armoured vehicles, I do like these photographs - probably as a result of childhood trips to the Bovington Tank Museum! I’m particularly fond of the chaps riding on the Killen-Strait tractors – they look like they’re having rather a lot of fun testing them out!

Ref: Stern 4/2-4/3

Selected by Frances Pattman, Archivist

During World War One the Daily Mail issued several series of postcards of images taken by official photographers on the Western Front. In the papers of FM Viscount Alanbrooke are bound volumes of letters written to his mother. These volumes also acted as scrapbooks and include photographs, maps, postcards and items of ephemera. In the volume from 1916 are pasted several of the Daily Mail postcards. 

The cards shown here are colourised and particularly stand out amongst the black and white of the photographs and typed letters. Like many of the official photographs some of these do look a bit staged but they are often all we have as a visual reference.

Ref: Alanbrooke 2/1/9

Selected by Geoff Browell, Senior Archives Services Manager

These album pages were compiled by Captain Jack Archer (1871-1954), a rifleman who was taken prisoner after being wounded during the German capture of Cambrai in August 1914. He served out the duration of the war in the German Prisoner of War Camp at Merseburg near Leipzig , before being transferred to Scheveningen in neutral Holland.

The photographs are interesting in that they show the variety of prisoners of different nationalities. How many of these friendships endured after conflict had ended, I wonder? The memorials to the dead with which we are familiar usually post date the war but this album provides an interesting exception – a memorial erected by POWs themselves in Merseburg in 1915. I was speculating that if Britain and her allies had been triumphant in 1915, its bold lettering, ‘1914-1915’ might today be replicated across the world. For how long did the prisoners present at its unveiling believe they would remain captive and estranged from their families and comrades? Would the war ever have an end?

The examples of paper ‘money’ are fascinating – Archer tells us the notes were only current in Merseburg but that French forgers would send parcels containing thousands of bogus notes to prisoners in the camp. Consequently, the Germans, he observes, ‘must have lost a considerable amount of money’.

Ref: Archer

Selected by Lianne Smith, Archives Services Manager

These posters are part of a set of recruitment posters issue by the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee (PRC). The PRC was set up following the outbreak of war in August 1914. This was a cross-party organisation chaired by the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith. It utilised the party infrastructure in parliamentary constituencies to support recruitment - party activists were called upon to distribute leaflets, and organise rallies, processions and public meetings. The PRC commissioned some 200 posters, mostly published before the introduction of conscription in January 1916.

I find it interesting how some of the posters were so psychologically manipulative in their attempts to encourage men to sign up, whilst lacking in subtlety. They tried to provoke a sense of guilt, targeting single men by citing the bravery of fathers and husbands who had already enlisted, or fathers through the imagery of children. Some posters were aimed specifically at women to persuade their husbands and sons to enlist.

More of our First World War recruitment and fundraising posters can be seen on our Serving Soldier website.

Ref: World War One posters

Selected by Diana Manipud, Archives Assistant

The increased contact between soldiers from different countries and social classes in the war zones saw the exchange of language and words encourage a growth of slang expressions that were created. Songs and Slang of the British Soldier: 1914-1918 edited by John Brophy and Eric Partridge, provides a collection of songs and slang that were prevalent during the First World War.

I like the inventiveness of some of the words such as ‘whizz bang’ and ‘pip-squeak’ which were used by soldiers to describe sounds of shells either approaching or exploding. I also find it really interesting that some words take their root from other languages, for example, ‘Blighty’ (derived from ‘the Hindustani bilaik, meaning foreign country, especially England’) and ‘Buckshee’ used as an adjective applied to anything that was surplus or free (‘A development of the Persian bucksheesh’: a gratuity, a tip’).

 Ref: Songs and Slang of the British Soldier: 1914-1918 edited by John Brophy and Eric Partridge, London, 1930.

Selected by Stephen Miller, Web Editor


The spark that began the first global war in 1914 was the assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his duchess Sophie Chotek on 28 June.  The retrospective French L’Album de la Guerre (Paris, 1926) makes this clear from its very beginning pages, my source for these three images: page 1 showing the two prominent victims of assassin Gavrilo Princip and page 5 their candle lit coffins.  Sandwiched between on page 3 is a photo showing a street scene of Princip being hauled into a police station.  (Whether the hatless man is the nineteen year old Princip himself has been questioned, as noted in the Wikipedia article on World War One [].)


The middle photo by Walter Tausch is from the streets of Sarajevo.  A century later the energy and seeming confusion are gripping.  If the man being taken into the station is a bystander, as some contend, that would emphasise the confusion.  Certainly the royal couple had been shot.  It is the static images of them that are portentous: the grand double portrait with the rather bizarrely cascading curtain behind and then the black solemnity of the coffins.  Millions of people around the world were going to follow these two into early graves. 

However, with this anniversary I am coming to realised that politically, the war did produce fundamental changes.  The institution which the grand couple represent, the Austro-Hungarian empire, did not outlive the conflict.  In fact, three further empires, the German, the Russian and the Ottoman were finished off by this war.  The whole concept of European empires was dealt a severe blow as were their associated monarchies.  Even in Britain the royal family felt constrained to change the name of their house.  It seems decisive that after 1914 the world - not always for the better, but in some ways for the better - would never be the same.  


More images from L’Album de la Guerre (Paris, 1926) volume I are available via the Serving Solder site at

Selected by Geoff Browell, Senior Archives Services Manager

This set of images from the collection of Sir Ian Hamilton provides a snapshot of the organisation of remembrance in the aftermath of war – not least for Australian and New Zealand families on Anzac Day (25 April).  Remembrance is here an act of pilgrimage – a duty with strong Christian overtones – and literally a journey of a lifetime for some survivors and their families separated from the graves of their loved-ones by thousands of miles of ocean. No doubt many would not have attempted the voyage, relying instead commemoration of these ‘sleeping heroes’ by British cousins or ex-pats, and attesting to strong emotional and familial bonds which traversed the boundaries of Empire and Dominions.

Sir Ian Hamilton was intimately concerned with veteran welfare, latterly as President of the British Legion in Scotland from 1935 until 1947. He often received direct appeals for help and support from injured ex-servicemen and invitations to the unveiling of numerous war memorials which began to be erected across the country during the 1920s.  

Hamilton’s invitation to a service held at St Clement Dane’s Church in London in 1921 is leant weight and significance by our knowledge of his commanding role in the ill-starred Gallipoli campaign, which witnessed numerous ANZAC casualties. Despite his rank and reputation, Hamilton has to apply for an invitation like anyone else – evidence of the event’s popularity or his own unpopularity among colonial veterans? The list of graves and cemeteries containing fallen Australian and New Zealand servicemen attests to their enormous sacrifice but also to the geographical breadth of their contribution, alluding to the sacrifice of numerous sailors and nurses, for example. 

Ref: Hamilton 11/6/3