Britain on the Brink of Starvation: Unrestricted Submarine Warfare

One hundred years ago today on 1 February 1917, Germany resumed its policy of ‘unrestricted submarine warfare.’  The seas around the British Isles were declared a war zone in which fishing vessels and unarmed merchant vessels, carrying essential items such as foodstuffs, coal and iron ore, would be attacked without warning by German U-boats. Featured image: UB106 on rocks Falmouth 1921 © Historic England/ Patrick Casement [see footnote 1] Prior to this a U-boat would surface, search a vessel, give theRead more

The Silvertown Tragedy: Explosion on the Home Front

100 years ago today, on 19th January 1917 at 6.52pm, a catastrophic explosion at the Brunner Mond and Company’s high explosive TNT factory in Silvertown, East London killed 73 people and injured hundreds. Most were local residents, including children and babies. The force of the explosion was tremendous.  Streets of houses were flattened. Across the river from Silvertown, on the Greenwich Peninsula at a gas works, now the site of the O2 Arena, one of the gas holders exploded. UpRead more

Thou Shalt Not Kill: 7 Sites of Memory to Conscientious Objectors

It is believed that as many as 20,000 men from all walks of life were originally on record as conscientious objectors between 1916 and 1918, refusing to fight in the First World War for religious, political or humanitarian reasons. They appeared before local tribunals to have the sincerity of their claim interrogated – often humiliatingly and aggressively – in public. These tribunals were biased towards believing the objectors were acting from cowardice not conscience.  It was a time when whiteRead more

5 Memorials that Chart Life and Loss in the First World War

There are few towns or villages in Britain that do not have a public memorial to commemorate those who died in the First World War; a sobering testament to the scale of the loss involved in the conflict. In Britain, around six million men were mobilised, and of those just over 700,000, or 11.5%, were killed. Over half a million men who served in the British army have no known graves. There are more than 100,000 war memorials in the UK. TheyRead more

6 Sites of Memory for Overseas War Heroes

The First and Second World Wars were truly global in scale and involvement. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers died supporting the British army, including troops from the colonies, and European countries that had been invaded by enemy forces. Here are 6 sites in England which pay homage to the enormous contribution made by foreign soldiers during the First and Second World Wars. Header image: No. 305 Polish Bomber Squadron taken in 1942 at RAF Cammeringham in Lincolnshire. 1. The Polish War Memorial, Hillingdon, Grade IIRead more

7 Things You May Not Know About the Battle of the Somme

This year marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, which took place between 1st July and 18th November 1916. The battle was a joint offensive by the British and French forces – fought along both sides of the River Somme in France – aimed at decisively defeating the Germany Army. Britain fielded a one million strong ‘New Army’ made up of inexperienced but enthusiastic volunteers from all walks of life, raised in a fervour of patriotism by FieldRead more

Jutland’s Surviving Warships

During the First World War, the British Navy dominated the sea, intercepting and detaining thousands of merchant ships carrying vital supplies bound for Germany and their allies. This month marks one hundred years since the British Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet and the Imperial German Navy’s High Seas Fleet met in the North Sea area west of Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula. What ensued was the largest naval battle of the First World War with over 100,000 sailors involved on 250 ships. MoreRead more

8 Things You May Not Know About the Battle of Jutland

The Battle of Jutland was the bloodiest naval confrontation of the First World War, involving 250 vessels and nearly 100,000 men.  The British Grand Fleet, whose key commanders were Admiral John Jellicoe and the then Vice-Admiral David Beatty, fought the German High Seas Fleet off the coast of Denmark. 6,097 British and Empire lives were lost, as well as 2,551 German. Neither side won a decisive victory, but the confrontation changed the course of the war, ultimately bringing the UnitedRead more