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First World War Collections

11 November 2008 marked the ninetieth anniversary of the signing of the Armistice which brought the fighting in the First World War to an end.

Explore the Imperial War Museum’s outstanding First World War collections and find out about exhibitions related to this major anniversary through the links on this website.

Every anniversary has its own importance, but sadly this is likely to have been the last major anniversary where survivors will still be alive to remind us of their part in what was thought to be ‘the war to end all wars’. It also provides an opportunity to reflect on the impact of the First World War not only in its historical context, but also in the world in which we live today.

A global conflict

Beginning in August 1914, the war was a truly global conflict, fought not just in Europe, but also in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. New weapon technology and mass armies resulted in unprecedented numbers of casualties.

One in three families in Britain had a loved one killed, wounded or taken prisoner. In other warring nations, the figures were even higher; France lost nearly a million and a half men – double that of Britain – while nearly two million Germans and a similar number of Russians died. Attacks from the air and underwater brought civilians into the front line. To sustain the vast armies at the front, millions of women – and children – were brought into nations’ workforces.

A lasting legacy

The war, and the uneasy years of ‘peace’ that followed it, continues to impact our lives. The collapse of the great empires of Austria-Hungary, Russia and Turkey helped sow the seeds of ethnic conflict in the Middle East, the Balkans and Eastern Europe that is still with us today. Furthermore, Germany’s defeat and ‘humiliation’ at Versailles helped pave the way for the rise of Hitler and an even more destructive world war.

The First World War continues to touch our lives 90 years after the guns fell silent. The observance of the Two-Minute Silence has returned to 11.00am on 11 November each year, and an increasing number of young people are exploring their families’ part in the war, visiting former battlefields and making pilgrimages to war cemeteries.

Discover more of the Museum’s outstanding First World War collections and how the Museum is marking the anniversary of the Armistice through this website.

A British Remembrance Day poppy which belonged to Colonel Wilson of the Salvation Army between the First and Second World Wars