WW1 Study Resources

Within the University’s collections there is a wealth of unique and distinctive resources for the study of World War One.

This guide serves as an introduction to these resources, highlighting some of the collections which are of most relevance for the study of the War.

Latest - A short video-essay on Scotland, Cinema and the First World War by two University of Glasgow academics, Maria A. Velez-Serna and Dr. David Archibald, has just been published in the leading journal (in)Transition. It's available at the following link: http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/intransition/2015/07/29/joining-scotland-cinema-and-first-world-war

The University during War

The outbreak and conduct of World War One had a significant impact on the life of the University as staff and students alike contributed to the war effort.  Further information on the University during the War can be found through the WW1 Roll of Honour.

The University Archive includes the following records which provide evidence of the University’s activities during the War: 

University Senate: managing the academic life of the University, the Senate minutes record the University’s actions to assist staff and students joining up for active service.  (Reference: GB248 GUA SEN

University Court: responsible for the administration of the University, the Court minutes reflect changes to the day-to-day running of the University (such as the use of University buildings) during the war.  (Reference: GB248 GUA C)

Glasgow & Strathclyde Universities’ Officers’ Training Corps: established in 1910 in response to escalating hostile relations with Germany, the OTC was responsible for the training of students and staff for commissions in the Territorial and Regular Army.  (Reference: GB248 DC099)

Personal experiences of War

Each member of the University community had their own, personal, experience of the War.  This ranged from signing up for active service on the front, through to service on the home front.  A range of personal collections offer an insight into these experiences:

Archibald Allan Bowman, Professor of Moral Philosophy: manuals, correspondence and notes from his service in the Army from 1915-1919, which included a period held in a Prisoner of War camp.  (Reference: GB248 DC077)

Archibald Cameron Corbett, 1st Baron of Rowallan: letters, diaries, and photographs of Corbett family members who served during the War, including the diary of Elsie Corbett detailing her service with the British Red Cross Society’s 2nd Serbian nursing unit.  (Reference: GB248 DC026)

Honoria Somerville Keer, Medical Officer:  correspondence and photographs relating to her war service with the Scottish Women’s Hospital in France, Greece and Corsica.  (Reference: GB248 DC171)

Sir John Graham Kerr, Professor of Natural History: correspondence, notes and photographs regarding dazzle camouflage for ships.  (Reference: GB248 DC006 and GB0247 MS Gen 1302)

Sir William Macewen, Regius Professor of Surgery: letters of a number of Macewen family members relating to their experiences in hospitals and laboratories in France, and papers relating to the Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers at Erskine House.  (Reference: GB248 DC79)

Daniel McFarlane, Physician: correspondence relating to his training with the Cameron Highlanders, service with the British Expeditionary Force in France, and injury and subsequent return home.  (Reference: GB248 DC179)

Alec Lawrence Macfie, Professor of Political Economy: correspondence with his mother describing military training, particularly in Cambridge, and his war service in France; records from his brother, John Mandeville, relating to the Salonika campaign.  (Reference: GB0247 MS Gen 1517, MS Gen 1643)

Alexander MacCallum Scott, Politician: political diaries relating to his service as Liberal M.P. for Bridgeton (Glasgow) and as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Winston Churchill at the Ministry of Munitions and the War Office.  (Reference: GB0247 MS Gen 1465)

The war effort

Across the city and the country, individuals, businesses and organisations supported the war effort.  Personal and business collections provide evidence of the development of the war effort:

Erskine Hospital Ltd: Erskine was established in 1916 as the Princess Louise Hospital For Limbless Sailors and Soldiers as a direct response to the need for specialised medical facilities to deal with the unprecedented number of injured and maimed service personnel returning from the First World War. (Reference: GB248 UGC225)

Alexander Stephen & Sons, shipbuilders: administrative records (minutes and letter books) demonstrate the impact of the war upon orders and production, photographs highlight the work undertaken by women during the war.  (Reference: GB248 UGD004)

Army & Navy Co-operative Society Ltd, retailers: catalogues show the products on sale to members of the armed forces whilst on active service, and the records of gun sales highlights the levels of private ownership of guns across the armed services.  (Reference: GB248 FRAS)

Barr & Stroud Ltd, optical instrument makers: production records show the orders placed by the armed forces for range-finders.  (Reference: GB248 UGD295)

Highland Girls’ Club Munitions Workers, welfare organisation: minutes of their meetings which brought together women who had moved from Stornoway to Glasgow by the Board of Trade to perform essential munitions work.  (Reference: GB248 UGC021)

Scottish Temperance League: minutes of the various bodies record discussion of wartime restrictions on the licensed trade.  (Reference: GB248 DC019)

William Beardmore & Co., engineers: Beardmore’s specialised in heavy engineering, supplying tanks, artillery, naval ordnance and armoured plate; administrative records demonstrate the company’s response to the increase in demand from the armed forces, with photograph albums documenting their war production.  (Reference: GB248 UGD100)

William Douglas Weir, industrialist and public servant: papers provide information on his role as Scottish Director of Munitions for the Ministry of Munitions, and the work of G & J Weir Ltd in the production of munitions.  (Reference: GB248 DC096)

6th Battalion Cameron Highlanders

As part of their support for the war effort, Glasgow University Union hosted a recruitment drive run by D.W. Cameron of Locheil on behalf of the 6th Battalion Cameron Highlanders.  The war service of the resulting “B” Company can be traced through records held at Special Collections:

  • retrospective notes and reminiscences of Robert McOwan who joined the battalion as one of a draft of 250 just after the battle of Loos in 1915; includes accounts of the Somme and the Marne. (Reference: GB0247 MS Gen 1376/1-2)
  • diary of John Kenneth Bulfin-Crawford from 4 July to 17 November 1915.  (Reference: GB0247 MS Gen 1376/4)
  • diary of James Campbell from 8th July 1915 to 16th March 1918.  (Reference: GB0247 MS Gen 1376/6)
  • souvenir booklet of the Sixth Cameron Highlanders, 1916.  (Reference: GB0247 MS Gen 1376/7)
  • seventy letters from Captain F. J. MacCunn to his family recounting his experiences as a soldier, from a telegram saying goodbye in September 1914 to correspondence concerning his death in 1915.  (Reference: GB0247 MS Gen 532)

Discovering resources relating to the War

The University’s collections can be discovered using a number of online search systems:

Each of these search systems offers a number of ways to discover the items held, so you may want to tailor your search for particular themes, individuals, organisations or dates. 

For a general search, terms such as ‘first world war’ or ‘great war’ will return collections which are directly related to the war. 

For a more specific search, use more focused search terms: ‘conscription’, ‘rationing’, or the names of particular individuals, regiments, or battles. 

Alternatively, if you are looking for a particular type of record, such as letters or diaries, you can combine a search for ‘letter’, ‘diary’, ‘correspondence’ with the dates you are interested in, ‘1910-1920’.

Detailed descriptions of the collections held across the University are not always accessible online.  Staff will be happy to advise on the best methods of discovering collections, so please do not hesitate to contact us.