Trinity and the First World War

Trinity and the First World War - July to October, 2014 in the Wren Library

This year marks 100 years since the start of the First World War, one of the costliest armed conflicts in human history in terms of human life. When Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August, 1914, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) began to deploy almost immediately and life in Cambridge changed dramatically.

Over the five years of The Great War, military khaki took the place of academic dress as the student population fell and the Colleges hosted officers in training, military conferences and wounded soldiers. At night, lights were extinguished in order to avert zeppelin attacks, leaving the streets utterly dark. The economic realities of the war meant civilians had to go without many comforts. The political unrest in Europe meant that labour riots, women’s suffrage, the Russian Revolution and the uprising in Ireland were on people’s minds nearly as much as the War.

Exploring how Trinity College withstood the changes and challenges during the War provides an insight into life on the home front. Meanwhile, members of the College experienced the War in many different ways. This exhibition, while by no means exhaustive, looks to shed light on some of the stories connecting Trinity College and The Great War. We invite you to remember the bravery, fellowship and sacrifice of those involved in this bloody conflict and to learn more about the part that the College played in the years 1914-1918.

“The War of to-day, with its many horrors, its crushing griefs, its lavish but ungrudged sacrifices, its splendid courage… will be one of the great sign-posts in the long tale of our country’s struggles; one of those epochs in which, with a full, a chastened, and a united heart, our people ‘thanked God and took courage.’” – H.M. Butler, Master of Trinity, in a sermon to the College servants on 4 October, 1914

Welcome to the online edition of the Trinity and the First World War exhibition, being held in the Wren Library from July to October, 2014. Here on the Trinity College Library blog you will find the same content that is on display in the Wren, plus expanded content including more information and additional images. As a portal to this content we have created an interactive timeline of the First World War including major historical events as well as dates relevant to members of Trinity who are featured in this exhibition. These events link to exhibition content such as blog posts and images. The other images, videos and links are public domain materials and credit is given for any items to which the Master and Fellows of Trinity do not hold copyright. If you prefer a more straightforward approach to the material, it will be released as blog posts over the coming days.

Further reading:

Chris Elliott (2014) “Cambridge and The Great War”, Cambridge News.