Uncover the role of the British Empire in the First World War.

Background Information

The First World War was mainly fought in Europe, although many countries were involved because under the British Empire, Britain was able to conscript troops from around the world to fight and support its war effort. The colony which sent the greatest amount of soldiers was India, including Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Many nationalities were on board and treated on the ambulance trains destined for Britain. The diverse collection of casualties shared stories, language or even cigarettes to keep morale up in unfamiliar surroundings.

The aim of these resources is to help your students to explore the role of the British Empire in the First World War. The resources offer an observation into the diversity and comradeship of the troops fighting to support a nation on a different continent.

Teachers’ notes

How to use these resources

  • use them as discussion points for learning about the impact of the British Empire within the First World War
  • encourage your students to explore and interpret the resources
  • use the resources to research how government rule changed after the war as a result of the colonial involvement

Talking points

What do these images/quotes tell you?
What do you think might have been the biggest challenge for the British staff on board ambulance trains?
Does anything in these resources surprise you?
Through your own research, create a map of the British colonies that fought in the First World War
From further research can you find out how many soldiers from the British colonies lost their lives?
What do these resources not tell us?
What do these resources tell you about the role of the British Empire in the First World War?
What questions do you need to ask about these resources?
What other types of sources of information do you think you need to look at to find out the answers to these questions?