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The First World War

This page explains how, during the Centennial period (2014-2018) we will be revealing the true impact of the war on England; the legacy of what may be regarded as the First Home Front.  

Many places associated with the First World War – former airfields, munitions factories, training areas – are forgotten or neglected and in danger of being lost forever. In some cases wartime buildings have been adapted to new uses.  

Traces of other activities, such as elaborate training trenches, may only survive as subtle marks in the landscape. Elsewhere traces of demolished factories may be plotted as archaeological earthworks.

National Filling Factory Banbury, Northampton, aerial photograph showing the earthwork remains of the factory overlying traces of earlier ridge and furrow cultivation.
National Filling Factory Banbury, Northampton, aerial photograph of the earthwork remains of the factory, scheduled © Historic England 27883/040

Discovering traces of the war

We’re working to identify the locations of some of the most important sites from the Home Front and assessing their current survival.

From 1915 a system of national factories was created to manufacture vital munitions of war. A recent project has discovered their locations and highlighted surviving examples.

Emerging technologies, for example wireless stations, played an increasingly significant role in the war. Other work has for the first time located many of the coastal stations that played a vital part in the war waged off our shores. Other projects are investigating wartime wrecks in the North Sea and the condition of lost submarines.

Lodge Hill, Chatham, Kent, reconstruction drawing by Peter Dunn of the First World War anti-aircraft site with gunner firing at a German Zeppelin airship
Lodge Hill, Chatham, Kent, reconstruction drawing by Peter Dunn of the First World War anti-aircraft site © Historic England

The First Home Front

The First World War was the first total war and at the end of four years of fighting all sections of society were drawn into the conflict. In parallel to the mobilisation of the population for war, the English countryside and buildings in our villages, towns and cities were enlisted to contribute to the war effort.  

During the Centennial period Historic England will be working with the Council for British Archaeology on the Home Front Legacy project to support volunteers to record the legacy of the war in their areas. Early air photographs from the Britain from Above collection provide unexplored views of England shortly after the end of the war.  

Read more about the project and share your knowledge of the places and events associated with the war in your area.

Hunstanston, Norfolk, an early 1920s historic air photograph of the lighthouse and First World War wireless station
Hunstanston, Norfolk, an early 1920s historic air photograph of the lighthouse and First World War wireless station © Historic England EPW001849e

This work will contribute to a new understanding and awareness of the impact of the war on England and how it shaped our buildings and places. It will reveal the importance of these often overlooked places, and ensure the heritage of the First World War is passed on to future generations.

The National Machine Gun factory, Burton-on-Trent, Staffordfordshire, architectural drawings of the three storey, neo-Georgian style headquarters building
The National Machine Gun factory, Burton-on-Trent , Staffordfordshire © Historic England MD 95/09210

To learn more about Historic England’s investigation of the First World War see our special edition of Conservation Bulletin.

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    FWW Centenary

    Help us to list and repair war memorials from the First World War and to record the legacy of our lost Home Front.