The Great War Archive website is Oxford University’s tribute to the fallen of 1914-1918

The 90th anniversary of Armistice Day was marked by Oxford University this week with the launch of a new, free to access website which will enable educators, scholars and the public to view previously unseen memorabilia from the First World War.

The Great War Archive website brings together 6,500 digital images of items submitted to the university by the public. The majority of these images are of treasured family heirlooms which have never been on display.

Items include a bullet-dented tea can which saved the life of an engineer who repaired a bombing post while under heavy fire in Bullecort in November 1917; a souvenir matchbox made by a German POW for a British lance corporal after they had fought a fierce fire together, saving many lives; and remarkable sketches of scenes and characters from military and civilian life by Pte Percy Matthews, until now, an unknown artist.

The Great War Archive complements Oxford University’s First World War Poetry Digital Archive which will enable online users to view previously unseen materials such as poetry manuscripts and original diary entries from some of the war’s most important poets. It builds on Oxford University’s extensive Wilfred Owen Archive.

Oxford University’s Project Leader, Kate Lindsay, said: “The Great War is arguably the most resonant period in modern British history. The memorabilia and poetry archives will provide easy access to an unrivalled collection of material which will be of use to anyone interested in getting closer to this world-changing conflict.”

Author and academic Vivien Noakes, said: “Each of the items submitted to The Great War Archive tells a personal and, often very poignant, story. The archive provides a myriad of windows into the period – the Great War in microcosm. Access to this material can only enhance our understanding of what it was like actually to live through these momentous times.”

The website has been made possible through the JISC Digitisation Programme which will see a wide range of heritage and scholarly material of national importance shared with new audiences.

JISC received £22m of funding from the Higher Education Funding Councils for England and Wales and has directed this to projects which promote technology in learning, teaching and research. This includes sound recordings, moving pictures, newspapers, maps, images, cartoons, census data, journals and parliamentary papers for use by the UK further and higher education communities.

The Great War Archive went live on November 11, 2008 at n Oxford Unversity’s First World War Poetry Digital Archive comprises more than 7,000 digital images, mainly of rare primary source material. The collection brings together writings dispersed across the UK and the US. Highlights include manuscript material from all of Wilfred Owen’s poems, military records and letters, drafts of all Edward Thomas’s poems and war diary, Robert Graves’s drafts of his poems from Over the Brazier and Fairies and Fusiliers, Isaac Rosenberg’s poems, including Daughters of War, and Vera Brittain’s poems written as a nurse, including Perhaps, written after learning of the death of her fiancé, Roland Leighton.