Dirt and Danger, Tragedy and Glory: Enduring the War

This theme presents the personal experiences of some of those who endured the war – soldiers, airmen and sailors, nurses, doctors and artists. Many were extremely young at the time; many did not survive; no one was unchanged by their experiences.

What was the reality of war for people a century ago? What did it demand of individuals in military service and other jobs, and what were its challenges and rewards? How can we understand the feelings, motivations and mindsets of people involved in the war, and its lasting legacy?

Explore their personal stories – and the evidence of photographs and letters – to answer some key questions: why were so many men and women keen to play a part in the war? What exceptional opportunities did the war offer them? How did they cope with its realities? What impact did it have on them and their families? How do we remember their contributions today?

Image credits: Henry Tonks by Henry Tonks, pencil, 1900-1925, NPG 3072(7), © National Portrait Gallery, London. Maud McCarthy by Frank salisbury, NPG 5831, © National Portrait Gallery, London. Harry Patch by Giles Price, 7 December 2004, NPG x127190, © Giles Price Uniform belonging to Margaret Ann McCurry, Aid Nurse 1915-18, © National Museums Northern Ireland. Photograph of William Bell, fitter at Harland and Wolff shipyard, c. 1912, © National Museums Northern Ireland. Tablecloth embroidered in white thread with signatures of staff and patients of the Welsh Metropolitan War Hospital, 1917. © Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales. Charles Pears, Maintaining Export Trade, from Transport by Sea portfolio, 1917, © Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales. Official photograph of the grave of Private William Dick (1st Battalion Scots Guards), © National Museums Scotland. Photograph of Archibald Dickson wearing his cadet uniform and cap, © National Museums Scotland. Marker for the grave of 2nd Lieutenant Herbert Beck, © Redbridge Museum. South Park Swimming Club Memorial Cup, c.1919-20, © Redbridge Museum. Pith helmetbelonging to Lance Corporal Thomas Uzzell, © The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum. Small box type respirator with haversack, © The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum.