First World War Centenary



Title: Bullets, Blades and Battle Bowlers – the personal arms and armour of the First World War
Date: Opened 12 September
Location: War Gallery

Bullets, Blades and Battle Bowlers is a new permanent exhibition sharing the stories of inventors, tacticians and soldiers of different nationalities. Through individual stories the exhibition will explore and explain how technological advancements helped catapult the world into the era of modern warfare. The exhibition is funded by DCMS/Wolfson Galleries Improvement Fund.


Title: They That Are Left
Date: November 2014 – February 2015
Location: Royal Armouries, Leeds

As part of the remembrance programme for 2014, a photographic exhibition of war veterans by photographer Brian David Stevens will go on display. This poignant exhibition will show a series of black and white portraits taken at The Cenotaph on Armistice Days 2002-12. This exhibition will transfer to Fort Nelson in 2015.

Title: 1914-18 Commemorative Quilts and Textiles
Date: Spring 2015
Location: Royal Armouries, Leeds

Work is currently underway to prepare around 30 exhibits reflecting a wide variety of First World War themes. Dates and detailed content of this exhibition will be confirmed soon.


August – November 2014
A programme of talks and seminars led by the museum’s expert curators will offer a unique insight into the history and research of the Arms and Armour of the First World War.


TALK – Franz Ferdinand and the mystery of the silk vest
Date: Wednesday 24 September, 6.30pm – 7.30pm
Location: Bury Theatre, Leeds
Tickets: £5
Speaker: Lisa Traynor – First World War Project Researcher, Royal Armouries

On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo, and within months the world is plunged into war.

Could this war have been delayed or even prevented had the Archduke been wearing a bullet-proof vest? Join us to unravel the mysterious case of the silk bullet-proof vest.
More information

TALK – The weapons of war
Date: Saturday 18 October, 2pm – 3pm
Location: Bury Theatre, Leeds
Tickets: £5
Speaker: Philip Magrath – Curator of Artillery, Royal Armouries

The Germans’ Schlieffen Plan depended upon artillery, yet it was artillery that held up their advance on Paris during the first month of the war.

Once trench warfare was established, no infantry involvement by any of the aggressors could be successful without organised artillery bombardment before, during and after the attack.

Here we examine the performance of the best of the field guns and howitzers used and assess the lessons learned for the artillery of the future.
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TALK – The Origins of the mad minute – Explaining British infantry rifle-shooting prowess at the beginning of the First World War.
Date: Saturday 1 November, 2pm – 3pm
Location: Bury Theatre, Leeds
Tickets: £5
Speaker: Dr Matthew Ford – University of Sussex & Historical Consultant, Royal Armouries

In August 1914 the British Expeditionary Force inflicted serious casualties on the advancing German First Army at Mons.

During the initial engagements at the Nimy Bridge, the rifle fire of soldiers of 4th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers was
 so effective that German soldiers believed that they were facing a battery of machine guns.

Here we explore how the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield was inspired by the tactics of the late 1890s North West Frontier engagements and study how it shaped British small arms tactics from Boer War to First World War.

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SEMINAR – Deadly Machines – The arms and armour of the First World War.
Date: Saturday 8 November, 10.30am – 4.30pm
Location: Leeds
Tickets: £30
Speakers: Jonathan Ferguson – Curator of Firearms, Royal Armouries, Henry Yallop – Assistant Curator of Edged Weapons, Royal Armouries & Lisa Traynor, Assistant Curator of Firearms, Royal Armouries.

At the outbreak of war all armies fought with weapons designed in the 1880s
 and virtually no armour. Commanders on all sides were ill-prepared for the 
sheer scale of the war ahead, and although the stagnation of the Western Front drove innovation, the core tools available to the infantry soldier did not change significantly throughout the conflict.

Learn how Victorian technology was adapted to suit the tactics of this ‘modern’ warfare and get hands on with the deadly machines of the most destructive conflict in history.

More information



Railway Howitzer

Britain’s last surviving railway gun is already in situ as part of the display of artillery of the First World War, in the Artillery Hall at Fort Nelson. Increasingly heavy howitzers were developed during the First World War as part of the trend to build bigger calibre guns capable of firing heavier, more destructive shells in the battle to break the stalemate on the Western Front. This would have been the largest of its type.

The First World War ended before any of the four 18-inch howitzers were ready. Some were used for testing purposes on artillery ranges and one had a new lease of life in the Second World War – serving on a railway line in Kent, in readiness to blast the beaches if a German invasion force landed. Each 18-inch shell weighed about a ton but the Howitzer was never fired in anger as the feared invasion never occurred.

‘Soixante Quinze’

The French 75 mm field gun, known as the ‘75’ – the first modern field gun and one of the most famous weapons of the 1914-18 conflict – has been acquired recently and is on display at Fort Nelson, where it can be compared with the field artillery of France’s ally Britain and their enemy, Germany.

The ‘75’ holds an unrivalled position in the rapid technological development of artillery during the late 19th century and fired an unprecedented 15 to 20 rounds per minute – subjecting German troops to a ferocious barrage. The gun also played a central role in the infamous Dreyfus Affair, which divided France. The controversy centred on the question of guilt or innocence of French army captain, Alfred Dreyfus, falsely convicted of treason in 1894 for allegedly selling military secrets to the Germans – including details from the specification of this devastating new gun.


Title: They That Are Left
Date: Spring 2015
Location: Fort Nelson

A photographic exhibition of war veterans by artist Brian David Stevens will go on display. This poignant exhibition comprises of black and white portraits taken at The Cenotaph on Armistice Days 2002-12.



Title: The Tower at War 1914-18: Foreman Buckingham goes to War
Date: 4 August 2014 – 1 April 2015
Location: White Tower, Tower of London

A showcase in the White Tower will be dedicated to telling the story of the Tower and its people during the First World War, with content updated annually and including extracts from the contemporary Tower Minute book detailing the daily activities on site. This year (2014) will focus on the tragic story of William Buckingham, Armouries’ foreman and keen volunteer artilleryman, who on the outbreak of the war, enlisted with the rank of Battery Sergeant Major in the Royal Field Artillery and journeyed north to Peterborough to train new recruits.


Explore the Weapons of the First World War Online – The launch will coincide with the centenary commemorations, with extra content added regularly. The first instalment will focus on the Personal Arms of the First World War.

Launch of Royal Armouries’ Collections Online – This autumn will also see the start of a new users’ digital interface to the Royal Armouries’ collections, which will allow users access to images, videos and information not previously available online. This is only the start of the project and it will continue to develop and grow with exciting new content added over the coming years.

First World War Archives Project – Royal Armouries is working with a number of local museums, archives and other heritage organisations to stage an exciting project, exploring various aspects of the Great War. The project will investigate the history of the Royal Small Arms Factory with Enfield Museums Service, Local Studies and Archives, and the RSA Trust, and the development and manufacture of the British service rifle with the Historical Breechloading Small Arms Association. Royal Armouries is also working with local regimental museums in Yorkshire to discover more about the experiences of those who fought in local regiments and corps on the Western Front and in other theatres during the war.

The project will run from April 1, 2014 until March 31, 2016 and is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund.