Projects & Research

Armstrong Digital Memory Book: The Armstrong Memorial Digital Memory Book is the product of three years work by Archaeology staff and students in collaboration with Newcastle University Robinson Library. Around 276 individuals who attended or worked at Armstrong College and the University of Durham College of Medicine (both of which entities eventually became Newcastle University) gave their lives during the First World War. This memorial remembers the 223 who attended Armstrong College. Their names inscribed on a stone tablet at the foot of the stairs in the Armstrong building, and their average age was just 26. As we approached the centenary of the First World War, however, the stories behind these individuals had largely been forgotten.

Dr Jane Webster, Head of Archaeology at Newcastle University, sought to remedy this through original research by undergraduate Sophie Anderton as part of her dissertation Small Sorrows Speak: Great Ones Are Silent in 2011. This piece of work, using the archives in our Special Collections and elsewhere, shone a light on many of the personal stories and provided the basis for further research by Archaeology undergraduates Holly Johnson and Benjamin Howson in Summer 2013. The Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal has recognised the importance of making this research available to the widest possible audience. It therefore awarded the project a grant to create this Digital Memory Book, working in conjunction with the University Library. Visitors to the online Digital Memory Book are able to search and browse the 223 individuals on the Armstrong First World War Memorial to discover the personal stories behind the names of those associated with the University who lost their lives during the First World War. A touchscreen version of the Digital Memory Book has also been installed next to the memorial in the Armstrong Building at Newcastle University. The Robinson University Library is continually updating the Digital Memory Book with contributions from staff, students, and members of the public, including descendants of the fallen.

(UPDATE: Please see details of ‘Universities at War: Chronicling the Fallen of Newcastle and Durham Universities (1914 – 1918)’ at the bottom of this page, which continues the work of this project.)


Beyond Shell Shock: Care, Trauma and the First World War in British Fiction: A downloadable reading guide to fictions of the First World War, developed by Dr Anne Whitehead and Marie Stern-Peltz in the School of English Literature, Language & Linguistics at Newcastle University.


Childhood, Culture and the First World War: An online digital resource focused on the First World War and Childhood, and emerging from the Leverhulme-funded International Network, Approaching War: Childhood, Culture and the First World War. The site features  a critical bibliography, a database of children’s literature on the First World War and a wide selection of images, as well as the materials from the three project conferences.


Decoded, 1914-1918: Seven digital creative projects commissioned by the Newcastle Institute for Creative Arts Practice (NICAP) and Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM) to explore the theme of Tyne & Wear in the First World War. Each project creatively reuses TWAM collections to interpret an aspect of the Tyne & Wear First World War story. These innovative digital works engage audiences in a variety of ways, and provide new and creative interpretations of Tyne & Wear during the FWW, and expose compelling and largely unfamiliar narratives.

The projects culminate in a series of public events taking place between between 16 – 28th Feb 2015 in a number of venues in Newcastle and Gateshead. The installations and performances explore a range of themes including the role of women in the First World War economy; Wartime communications technologies, particularly radio; the impact of War on folk traditions in the region, and Armed Forces recruitment. Details of these events will be featured on our Events page as information becomes available.


First World War Teachers’ Toolkit Resources: A number of First World War related resources have been made available through Newcastle University’s Teachers’ Toolkit website, and have been contributed by staff in the School of History, Classics & Archaeology, the School of Geography, Politics & Sociology, and staff in the Robinson University Library. These include:

Produced by the School of History, Classics & Archaeology and Robinson Library, Newcastle University, this pack is designed for History teachers to use in the classroom with Key Stage 3 or 4 pupils. The lessons and resources contained within it focus upon the war memorial in Newcastle University’s Armstrong Building and the role played by Armstrong College during the First World War.

Students can make their own contribution to our memory book by researching some of the men named on the memorial, but the skills they acquire can also be applied to researching memorials close to school or home. The pack has been designed as a stand-alone resource but can be combined with a visit to the University Library where students can explore archival resources relating to some of the men named on the memorial.

Produced by the School of History, Classics & Archaeology at Newcastle University, in this short video a Newcastle University student shows you how she went about researching one of the men named on the First World War memorial in Newcastle University’s Armstrong Building, using the Internet and materials from the University archives.

Produced by the School of History, Classics & Archaeology at Newcastle University, this pack forms part of Newcastle’s Archaeology Schools project, which aims to encourage history teachers to make use of archaeological evidence and methods in the classroom. Archaeologists have made a huge contribution to the study of the First and Second World Wars, and we have produced this resource pack on 20th century conflict for use by history teachers who are covering this topic at KS3 /4. Alongside some background information on archaeology and its role in exploring the very recent past, this pack contains all the materials you need (from printable classroom resources to PPT presentations) to deliver three innovative, enquiry-based activities

  1. Make a museum: investigating WW1 ‘Trench Art’
  2. Excavating and identifying WW1 soldiers buried at Fromelles
  3. War scene investigation: excavating a WW2 aircraft crash site

Produced by the School of History, Classics & Archaeology at Newcastle University, this activity is for use with KS 3/4 youngsters studying 20th-century conflict. It helps them to appreciate that non-textual sources (artefacts) are an important source of information about the past. Students work in groups and investigate four objects which might have been among the personal possessions of a soldier fighting in the trenches in WW1. These arefacts (a pair of ‘dog tags’; a small vase made from a recycled shell casing; a brooch; a 1914 ‘Princess Mary’ tin) can be borrowed from Newcastle Archaeology – they box up into a very small container, and we can post them out to schools, which can return them the same way (recorded delivery). Teachers working in the region can also pick up the loan box from the School of History Classics and Archaeology Office. The accompanying PowerPoint is self-explanatory: but we send out more detailed teachers’ notes with the artefact loan box. The ‘dog tags’ are replicas – the other three objects are genuine FWW artefacts.

Produced by Northumbria and Newcastle Universities Martin Luther King Peace Committee/Dr Nick Megoran, School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, Newcastle University. Between 2014 and 2018 the UK, and other countries, will mark the centenary of the First World War, a global conflict that killed more than 15 million people. Interpretations of the war continue to divide historians and politicians today, and debates about how to mark it remind us that memory is inevitably political.

To help negotiate these debates, the Northumbria and Newcastle Universities Martin Luther King Peace Committee has prepared separate packs of resources for school teachers and church ministers to mark one of the most remarkable events in the annals of modern warfare: the December 1914 Christmas Truces.

The first pack is for schoolteachers and includes ideas, lesson plans, hand-outs, and PowerPoint slide shows for lessons across a wide range of subjects (aimed primarily at 8-14 year olds), assemblies, and carol services. The second set of resources is for church leaders, with ideas for Advent/Christmas church services, carol services, Sunday School activities, and school assemblies. The packs can also be accessed and downloaded directly from the Martin Luther King Peace Committee website.


Universities at War: Chronicling the Fallen of Newcastle and Durham Universities (1914 – 1918): This project, undertaken by Newcastle University and Durham University in partnership, focuses on the lives and deaths of the men and women affiliated with Newcastle and Durham Universities who fell during the First World War, some of whom are commemorated on memorials in both institutions. Durham University was established in 1832 and is the 3rd oldest university in England. Like Oxford and Cambridge, it operates a collegiate system. Two Durham colleges (Armstrong College and the College of Medicine) were based in Newcastle, and were the precursors to Newcastle University (formally established in 1963). In 1914 these two colleges supplied around 70% of those who served. In 1920, a list of the fallen was published (Roll of Service), but many of those named on the Universities’ war memorials are not included on this Roll (only 157 from the 222 named on the Armstrong College war memorial) and no consolidated attempt has been made to tell the stories behind the names of those that fell across these institutions.

This project aims to redress this by building an online digital memory book (please see the Armstrong Digital Memory Book for information on work carried out so far), in which each individual’s story will be told where possible through images of these soldiers, their regiments, medals, and service records. From April this year, the project will be seeking volunteers to research and present the individual stories of those who fell from both Newcastle and Durham Universities. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact archivist Ian Johnson.

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