Digital Content for the First World War on JISC MediaHub

In 2014 we will be commemorating the centenary of the First World War. This event will  generate new interest in historic material relating to such a significant part of our history. JISC has funded work to explore what teachers and researchers will require so they can reinterpret this huge event from a 21st Century perspective. You can read more in a new report called Digital Content for the First World War which was undertaken by King’s College, London and makes recommendations about how valuable resources can be made digitally accessible.

JISC MediaHub provides access to many collections containing First World War material. Our previous ‘War Horse’ blog post focused on the important role horses played on the battlefront. In this blog post we are looking at how the war affected the everyday lives of ordinary people.

Are You In This? : IWM (images) c.1916

Hard times followed the onset of WWI and the government wanted to show the British people how they could contribute to the war effort. Food shortages became more common and rationing was eventually introduced.

Yes – Complete Victory if You Eat Less Bread : IWM (images) c.1916

The IWM (images) Collection contains a large number of propaganda posters distributed by the government to encourage the general public to save food; amongst many other initiatives.

Piling up Rations in the Rations Shed: This item is from The First World War Poetry Digital Archive, University of Oxford (


The role of women began to change as men  departed for the War in their tens of thousands .  Many volunteered to serve as nurses at the Front and we are starting to learn more about their individual stories following the release of new material from the National Archives.

The Scottish Women’s Hospital : In The Cloister of the Abbaye at Royaumont. Dr. Frances Ivens inspecting a French patient. Imperial War Museum (images)


Many more women came forward to take over industrial and agricultural jobs which helped keep the economy running. This interesting clip from Gaumont Graphic Newsreel shows a ‘ Women Workers Procession’ in London which was held by the Women’s Social and Political Union to recruit women into  munitions work. Mrs Pankhurst and Lloyd George were key to the organisation of this event.

Women Workers Procession: Gaumont Graphic Newsreel 27-07-1916

The  Great War left its mark on almost every community in the land. Even those living in the far corners of Britain found their lives were changed irrevocably by events played out far from home. The North Highland College Johnston Collection  gives us a unique insight into social change happening around Wick; a coastal town in the top North East corner of Scotland.

Parade after Church Service on Outbreak of the Great War : North Highland College (Johnston Collection) c. 1915

This parade was probably part of a recruiting march taking place throughout the county for one of the Seaforth battallions.

Meanwhile the everyday business of the town had to carry on:

Group photo of Lipton’s staff in Wick, standing outside the shop : North Highland College (Johnston Collection) c.1915

and despite the gravity of the war situation there were still opportunities to have some fun……

Painter and decorator apprentice finishing his time (Brothering) in Market Square :
North Highland College (Johnston Collection) c.1915

Among the treasures of this collection are many studio photographs of men who were about to join the fighting. These photographs would become precious mementoes as families faced an uncertain future. Here a soldier holds his young daughter in a surprisingly informal shot; we can only begin to wonder what their thoughts would have been at such a time.

A Portrait of Mr Clyne and his Daughter – December 1915 : North Highland College (Johnston Collection)


Further Links:

Discover Hidden Gems from the Silent Film Era on JISC MediaHub

There has been a surge of interest in the silent film genre following the huge success of The Artist at the 2012  Academy Awards. To follow up on this we thought we would take a look at some of the different types of silent film hosted by JISC Mediahub to show you some long forgotten material  that still has the power to astonish and surprise.

Gaumont Graphic Newsreel was launched in 1910 and became increasingly popular with cinema audiences who flocked to see their favourite film stars of the silent era. Newsreels were shown before the main picture and originally lasted around 5 minutes, containing four or five stories from the week’s news. In the days before the advent of television this was the only way ordinary people would be able to see moving pictures of famous individuals, historic events and news of national importance.

The Coronation of George V 1911 (Gaumont Graphic)

The public’s perceptions of royalty  began to change forever once they could witness important events such as George V’s coronation at their local cinema.

There was great interest in glamorous fashion icons such as French actress Mistinguett. A short clip entitled ‘Look Girls’ features her modelling some extraordinary outfits. At one time she was the best paid female entertainer in the world.

Mistinguett (Gaumont Graphic)

News of Hollywood film stars was always much sought after. The following screenshot is from a newsreel entitled ‘Last Film Glimpses of Rudolph Valentino’ taken a few days before his premature death following appendicitis in 1926.

Last Film Glimpses of Rudolph Valentino (Gaumont Graphic)

There  are amazing crowd scenes to be viewed in the newsreel  ‘Rudolph Valentino Lying-In-State’.

Gaumont Graphic finally ceased production in 1934 and was superceded by the production company’s sound newsreel, Gaumont British News, which is also a collection of JISC MediaHub.

The Imperial War Museum (films) Collection holds much fascinating silent footage of World War One. ‘The Battle of the Somme’ is the only British official film to have a major impact on the perception of the war, both at the time and in historical terms. Also the only official film of the war with a claim to be regarded as great art in its own right.

The Battle of the Somme (Imperial War Museum)

Watch history in action through the ETV Collection which contains silent footage of the ‘Battle of Cable Street‘. On 4 October 1936  Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists attempted to march through the Jewish area of Cable Street in the East End of London but was prevented by a combination of anti-fascist groups.

The Battle of Cable Street (ETV)

Why not explore these collections for more fascinating footage from the past. Gaumont Graphic Newsreel can be searched by date via our NewsFilm Online Service where you can also find a short history of British Cinema Newsreels.

Further  Information:
  • Visit BFI InView to find out more about silent film and social issues (to be found under ‘Early Film’ from the drop down menu under ‘Collections’)
  • Learn more about the study of Newsreel at the BUFVC
  • Visit TurnipNet for an overview of British Newsreels

Find out what is available on JISC MediaHub by visiting the Explore by Collection pages