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Investigating the Home Front 1914-1918

Posted on 13 January 2013

The material remains of the First World War on the British Home Front will be investigated by researchers at the University of Bristol and the University of York, thanks to £39,500 funding from English Heritage.

WWI Project

The Home Front 1914-1918 and its Legacies will serve as a small-scale nine-month pilot for a future national public archaeology project to research and record the remaining traces of the First World War in Britain.

The project will be managed by Dr Nicholas Saunders of Bristol's Department of Archaeology and Anthropology and Dr John Schofield of the University of York, with Emily Glass, also at Bristol, serving as project officer undertaking the research.

The researchers will develop a methodology for use by volunteers to record the physical legacies of the First World War within their localities.  Two test areas – Staffordshire and the Lower Lea Valley, to the north-east of London – will be investigated during the pilot.

In Staffordshire, the researchers will work closely with the Historic Environment Record (HER) Services of Staffordshire County Council and the Stoke-on-Trent HER office, while in the Lower Lea Valley they will be collaborating with the Hertfordshire, Essex and Greater London HERs.  Local knowledge from these working partnerships will be combined with research undertaken in national archives and museums to construct a comprehensive analysis of the remaining First World War resource.

Wayne Cocroft of English Heritage said: "The common images of the First World War are of fighting men on the Western Front and in the Middle East, mighty battleships, airships, and flimsy aircraft.  This exciting project, through the work of volunteers, will for the first time map the more subtle traces of the conflict that are still found in our towns and countryside.

"It will document memories of how familiar places were drawn into global events:  a field used to muster the local volunteer soldiers, a workshop converted to manufacture munitions or a large house used as a hospital.  The project offers great potential for people to become involved in exploring the history of their area, and will leave us with a valuable record of the Home Front 1914-1918."

Co-ordination and the use of volunteers will be tested during the pilot stage through systematic identification, recording and data input of sites.  The researchers anticipate locating and recording many different types of sites such as buildings created as a specific response to the First World War in urban and rural environments, bombing or crash sites, requisitioned country estates, military airfields, transport sites, hospitals, wartime graves and cemeteries, street shrines, rolls of honour and places of commemoration and memorialisation.

This information will be entered into a database which will complement and enhance the existing record.  On completion of the project, it will be made available to professionals and researchers through the relevant local Historic Environment Records.  The project will then be expanded to a national level between 2014 and 2018 if further funding can be secured.

Image: Female workers at the Cunard Shell Works, Bootle, 1917 (Ref: BL24001/037) Reproduced by permission of English Heritage.