First World War Historic photography

Britain’s Home Front: 9 Remarkable Aerial Images That Reveal the Impact of the First World War

1. National Projectile Factory in Hackney, London

EPW005749   © English Heritage

During the First World War demand for munitions soared and sections of the British landscape were dedicated to vast factories.  An area of 35.5 acres in Hackney Marshes was taken to build the National Projectile Factory.  Click on the image to see the extensive railway used to transport materials around the site. Little remains of the factory today, but it is immortalised in a painting by Anna Airy at the Imperial War Museum.

2. National Box and Cartridge Repair Factory, Newport

WAW005370   © RCAHMW

Built in 1917 to repair ammunition boxes and cartridges, this factory covered almost 13 acres of Newport docklands. A twin factory was built at Dagenham Dock.

3. Prefab houses for munitions factory workers in Gretna, Dumfries and Galloway

SPW027440   © RCAHMS

The town of Gretna was built to provide housing for the workers of the UK’s largest cordite factory, built by the Ministry of Munitions in direct response to the Shell Crisis of 1915. At its peak the factory produced 800 tons of cordite a week – more than all the other munitions plants in Britain combined.

4. Temporary government buildings in St James’ Park, London

EPW006161   © English Heritage

This picture shows St James’ Park, but not as you would recognise it today. The lake was drained so that reflection from the water would not attract enemy aircraft towards Buckingham Palace and Whitehall. Temporary government buildings were built in the park and lake basin to house the civil service, which had almost doubled in size.

 5. HM Naval Seaplane Training School, Lee-on-the-Solent

EPW024422   © English Heritage

HM Naval Seaplane Training School was opened in 1917 when the Admiralty needed to establish air stations around the south and east coasts.  These stations supplemented the coastguard system and alerted our shore defences against sea and air invasion.

6. Thos W. Ward Ltd, Frog Island, Rainham Marshes

EPW006567   © English Heritage

After the war many warships were decommissioned and broken up into scrap metal by shipbreakers such as Thomas William Ward.  This picture shows two of the Royal Navy’s ‘Admiralty M Class’ destroyers (nearest and farthest) waiting to be broken up.

 7.  Leicester Frith Institution

SK556067 SK5506/022 Leicester Frith Institution, Leicester, 1921
EPW005257   © English Heritage

Built as a private residence in 1870, the Leicester Frith Institution became a home for shell-shocked servicemen and was subsequently used as a mental health hospital. It still stands today, listed at Grade II, as administrative offices within the grounds of Glenfield Hospital.

 8. Great Hall, University of Birmingham

EPW022591   © English Heritage

It’s now the University’s ceremonial hall where students sit exams and graduate, but during the war the Great Hall was a busy hospital ward which saw more than 130,000 patients through its doors.

9. War Memorial and Memorial Gardens under construction, Nottingham

EPW019378   © English Heritage

After the First World War thousands of war memorials were built across the country. This picture captures the construction of the Memorial arch and gardens (both now listed grade II), designed by city engineer and surveyor, Mr T. Wallis Gordon.  Click on the image to see the many workers looking up at the plane, and the horse-drawn carts lined up along the road.

Taken from the Britain From Above Home Front Legacy 1914-18 group, these images have been tagged by volunteers who are helping us identify sites and structures that bear testimony to the First World War’s impact on the UK’s towns, villages, cities and countryside.

3 comments on “Britain’s Home Front: 9 Remarkable Aerial Images That Reveal the Impact of the First World War

  1. Reblogged this on Godolphin 1914 – 1918 and commented:
    Not only did the Great War make an impact on the populous but also on the British landscape.

  2. Peter mitchell

    They used to make munitions at my old school during the First World War

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: