World War One (experiences of war)
Where can I find information about experiences of war during World War One?
Image: Royal Irish Rifles ration party Somme July 1916 Collection: Imperial War Museum
Entry last updated: 06/06/19
World War One was an international conflict that took place from 1914 to 1918, and was also known as The Great War. It began in Europe and involved over thirty nations around the world. Over thirty million people lost their lives, and many more were affected in different ways. In this entry we will look at the experiences of people involved.
Life at war
People's lives changed greatly during World War One. The websites below have information about what life was like.
The BBC has a website for school students which has some excellent resources about British history and what life was like in Britain during World War One.
- Look down the page to WWI.
- Choose from the topics listed.
- Read answers to questions like What were air raids like in World War One? and What did people eat during World War one?
Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the BBC Learning page on this website. That can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.
The British Library focuses on English history and literature. It has an excellent World War One site that includes primary sources.
- Go to Discover & Learn.
- Choose 'World War One'.
- Then Articles.
- Look down the page for articles like Children’s experiences of World War One and Experiences of colonial troops.
This is an NZ government website on World War One commemorations. It also includes a timeline of NZ's involvement in the war and a ‘life 100 years ago' twitter feed. WW100 has some interesting videos and audios depicting the lives of New Zealand soldiers fighting on the Western Front. It also has diary entries, letters, photographs, and articles about personal stories.
- To find information about life one hundred years ago and the history of the First World War from a New Zealand perspective select the The NZ at War tab at the top of the page.
- Choose an article to read, or a video or audio to watch or listen to.
Tips: You can trust the information on this website because it is a government website. You can tell this because it has .govt in the web address.
Life on the front line
Soldiers and medical personnel such as nurses and doctors were on the battlefront so experienced the horrific nature of war. Some soldiers suffered from shell shock, now known as post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. This was a psychological reaction to their experiences of war. Others suffered from poison gases used in chemical weapons.
This site has a comprehensive overview of British soldiers, battles, and army life.
- Choose 'soldiers' from the front page to find the article A soldier's life.
Tips: Websites that have .com or .co in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About link on this website. This can tell you what the company’s mission and values are.
NZHistory is a great website for information about New Zealand Aotearoa. It has some excellent information about the experiences of New Zealand nurses in World War One.
- choose New Zealand at War from the front page and
- go to First World War
- then,New Zealand Army Nursing Service.
NZHistory also has a series of short videos called Great War Stories which tell the stories of New Zealanders who were involved in the war.
Tips: If we go all the way down the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.
This site has brief entries focusing on UK and US history and society, and both World Wars. It includes excerpts of primary source material in each entry.
Spartacus Educational has a section on 'Life in the Trenches' with an article about shell shock which includes the symptoms and what doctors of the time thought caused it. There is also a page on poison gases.
Tips: This site does not have an about page to access how reliable it it. Click on the Author page on the website and it will tell you about the author of the site.
This site focuses on English history and literature. It includes primary sources / digitised texts, and a brief world history timeline. The British Library's World War One website includes useful articles about soldiers' experiences.
- To find these select Themes from the options below the World War One heading, then choose Life as a soldier which also covers Training to be a soldier.
- Use the search bar and enter 'shell shock', then choose the article Shell-shock.
Tips: The British Library is the National Library of the United Kingdom so you can trust the information. You can read more on their About us link.
Life at home
The war also affected people who stayed home. With many of the men away fighting on the battlefield, the traditional roles of women in particular changed as they had to do the work that was usually done by the men in their community.
- Select themes from the options below the World War One Heading.
- Choose civilians as a theme on the left-hand side.
This website also has lots of information about people's experiences at home in New Zealand during World War One.
- Go to New Zealand at War on the front page.
- Look under First World War.
- Choose Home front.
This site is a good place to explore the objects, documents, photographs, and film from its collection. There is also a search engine in you can use to find out information about anything specific.
- From the homepage go to Discover more.
- Choose Home front to read stories about how the war affected those at home.
- Choose Women in Wartime to read about the changes the war made to the lives of women.
Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on this website.This can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are.
Remembering World War One
Remembrance celebrations for World War One have taken place over the last four years to mark the 100 year anniversary.
This website was created to mark the 100 year anniversary of New Zealand's involvement in World War One and to remember the men and women who fought.
- Go to the NZ at War heading.
- From the menu on the left select Personal Stories.
- You can also choose 'Monumental' to read the page about Understanding New Zealand's First World War Memorials.
Revisit this website to read the page How do we remember World War One?
There are many books that have been written about World War One experiences. Check out your local public or school library to see what they have!
Here are some recommended titles:
War in the trenches : remembering World War One by Peter Hicks.
Somme Mud by Edward Lynch.
World War I on the front lines by Tim Cooke.