Literary Connections: making the right connections with literature
War Memorial
Memorial to the 'European War' in
Broadbottom, a small mill town in 1914.
See the pages on researching war
and on memorial inscriptions
More about Broadbottom in the war here

Poets of the First World War
Poets of the First World
War: see below

The Poetry of War
The Poetry of War:
see below

The First World War in Literature

The resources on these pages are intended to help teachers and students, particularly at AS and A Level and especially for the AQA Specification A English Literature AS Level War option. The lists incorporate recommendations from teachers, suggestions from AQA support meetings and my own research. Use the menu on the left to help you find your way around.

Other pages to visit on this site are:

Useful web sites
  • The Accrington Pals:
    • The Accrington Pals website has extensive information about the 11th (Service) Battalion (Accrington) East Lancashire Regiment, better known as the Accrington Pals: "probably the best remembered of the battalions raised in the early months of the First World War in response to Kitchener's call for a volunteer army".
    • CLEO (Cumbria Lancashire Education Online) has an excellent unit on the Accrington Pals in its Key Stage 3 History section - although aimed at the 11-16 age range it has much relevant material, including sound files of interviews with surviving Pals describing their own experiences. Hear the old soldier recall how, as a young lad, he spent a night amongst the dead and terrified the stretcher bearers in the morning!
    • Mike Harding wrote a song about the Pals for his album Bomber's Moon:
      1916 came the call:
      We need more lads to battle with the Hun...
    • Also see Peter Whelan's play The Accrington Pals

  • BBC World War One site: rich resources include maps, films, Wilfred Owen Audio Gallery and extracts from soldiers' letters and diaries.
  • Converse First World War activities: a series of interactive resources on the War, including exploring Owen's drafts for 'Dulce et Decorum est' and some fascinating contemporary material. Very good for students to explore.
  • First World an extensive site, mainly devoted to political and military history but also including an interesting section on prose and poetry. The complete text of the 1917 collection of wartime poetry The Muse in Arms, 'a collection of war poems, for the most part written in the field of action, by seamen, soldiers, and flying men who are serving, or have served, in the Great War,' ranges from Brooke and Sassoon to many now forgotten.
  • New!Oxford University First World War site, an excellent resource newly overhauled and expanded, has seminars on First World War poetry, including access to Owen's manuscripts, contemporary photographs, etc.
  • Lost Poets of the Great War by Harry Rusche of Emory University, Atlanta
  • Steve Brown - a teacher's own site, with useful extracts and links (though some materials seemed to be missing when last visited).
  • English Online has useful links from the free samples of the Wilfred Owen unit: subscribers have access to an excellent series of interactive explorations of eight poems.
  • Imperial War Museum, which includes the newly-opened Imperial War Museum North.
  • National Archives First World War site: lots of documentary material, including archive photographs, propaganda material, posters, information on pacificists, etc.
  • World War I - Trenches on the Web: an Internet History of The Great War from The Great War Society
  • Cecil Slack: Letters from The Great War - a large collection of letters written and received by Cecil Slack during the Great War. This teaching resource from East Riding of Yorkshire Council (created mainly by Andrew Moore) has materials for Key Stage 3 but the documents should provide plenty of ideas for more advanced work too.
  • Carols, pudding and football: a letter from the trenches on Christmas day in 1914 was bought in November 2006 by the singer Chris de Burgh. The Guardian article includes the unknown soldier's letter to his mother.
  • The Somme :
    • the Battle of the Somme: this major site from the Imperial War Museum about the Battle offers access to artefacts from its collection and recordings of original testimony.
    • Revisiting the Somme: 'Its 90th anniversary is a chance to look at the lessons of this devastating battle' - useful Guardian page about the battle, with links to many other sites. Valuable background material, including notes on changing attitudes toward the conduct of the War.
    • 90 years on, the Somme remembered: Max Hastings in The Guardian, 1 July 2006.
    • 'We go tomorrow': Shrapnel still glints in the clay and skeletal remains go on being unearthed. On the 90th anniversary of the battle of the Somme, Mark Bostridge revisits the personal stories of troops on the front line - The Guardian, 1 July 2006.
    • Twenty thousand reasons to remember: Tim Gardham looks at three books which examine the unprecedented carnage and the memorials raised to the men who fell that day - The Observer, 2 July 2006.
    • Night Waves: Philip Dodd and guests mark the anniversary of the most costly land battle in British history, the Battle of the Somme. There are songs and reports from some of the battle sites. BBC Radio 3, 30 June 2006 - listen online for a limited period.
Historical and literary background
See also the page on Poems of the First World War: a selection of poems and context notes. Wilfred Owen
Britten: War Requiem
Britten's War Requiem

The Pity of War
Elgar, Janacek,
Debussy - and Owen
  • Britten: War Requiem. Benjamin Britten's War Requiem was written for the consecration in 1962 of Coventry's new cathedral, built to replace the building destroyed during by Second World War bombing. It combines the Latin Mass for the Dead with nine poems by Wilfred Owen. The high-profile premier by Britain's leading composer (a lifelong pacifist, who was born the year before the First World War) is claimed to have helped to revive Owen's reputation.
    There are several recordings available: a definitive account conducted by the composer, a fine modern one conducted by Richard Hickox and a 'thrilling account' (in the words of the Penguin Guide to CDs) by Guilini.
    You can find out more about the War Requiem on these pages at Caltech (where you can hear some sound clips) and on the BBC site.
  • Oh! What a Lovely War: the soundtrack of this production is available on CD.
  • Oh It's a Lovely War: Songs and Sketches of the Great War 1914-1918 includes original wartime recordings of classics such as 'It's a long way to Tipperary', 'Pack up your troubles' and 'Good bye-ee' that feature also in the Littlewood/Theatre Workshop play Oh What a Lovely War!. Some of these songs feature on The Pity of War - below. Find out about other CD41 recordings, including Sassoon and 'The Artists' Rifles' ('Great War poetry and prose read by the authors themselves, with music by composers who served in the conflict') on their website.
  • The Pity of War: a collection of First World War works by Elgar, Janacek, Debussy played by Matthew Trusler and Martin Roscoe, with a second disc of Wilfred Owen letters and poems read by Samuel West, interspersed with wartime songs. Produced in association with the Imperial War Museum by Orchid Classics - their website has a link to a download site as well. I can strongly recommend this and the Daily Telegraph agrees: 'poignant and perceptive of mood... all in all, a powerfully evocative set'. For literature teachers, the second disk alone is worth the price.
Other resources
Relevant films
Trumedia of Oxford are a good source of hard-to-find films and videos for schools - phone/fax: 01865 847837.
  • The Great War: televsion documentary from 1964 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War, still 'an epic piece of television' - and covers 7 DVDs (or on VHS tapes). Not cheap!
  • All Quiet On The Western Front: this 1930 black and white version is still very powerful. The 1979 version was deemed less effective by critics.
  • Blackadder: Complete Series 4 (Blackadder Goes Forth): Rowan Atkinson's Edmund Blackadder is a Captain in the trenches during World War I. The closing moments of the final episode, as Blackadder and co. finally receive their orders, are handled with sober poignancy and became a frequent fixture in Remembrance Day TV scheduling
  • Regeneration was filmed in 1997.
  • Saving Private Ryan: a Second World War film, notable particularly for the opening scenes on Omaha Beach as the troops face withering enemy fire.
  • The Imperial War Museum has works by such important official War Artists as Paul Nash: search the Collections for 'Art' to find details and some of the pictures.
  • More suggestions here would be welcomed.
Articles from newspapers, etc
  • Entrenched loyalties: While Europeans share memories of the second world war, histories of 1914-18 are strictly divided along national lines. Adam Thorpe visits the battlefields and challenges the myths: The Guardian, 7 May 2005