Engineering played a vital role in the First World War. Advances were made in all sectors of engineering: from the development of the tank to the creation of communication lines to the front. Engineering also contributed on the home front: from the development of artificial limbs to manufacturing munitions.
The First World War had a profound impact on the IEE (Institution of Electrical Engineers now the IET) and its members. The Institution had strong military links: many of its founder members were in the armed forces, and the IEE Council had played a major role in the formation of the Electrical Engineers Volunteers (RE) in the 1890s. On the outbreak of war, the Council agreed to offer space in its building to the War Office free of charge and put in place a National Service Committee to identify how its trained members could best be deployed in wartime. A recruiting office was set up at Savoy Place for the engineering units of the Royal Navy, and volunteers were also requested for service in the Royal Garrison Artillery. In total 2021 members served in the war, approximately 30% of the entire membership. Others, many in reserved occupations, joined the volunteer forces. 162 deaths are recorded in the IEE Roll of Honour.
The records held at the IET Archives document how engineers applied their expertise to the war effort as well as making the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefield.
This blog has been created by the IET Archives to highlight, commemorate and describe the work of engineers during the First World War. Work began on the blog to coincide with the anniversary of the start First World War in 2014. Material will be added between the years 2014-2018 as close as possible to the one hundredth anniversary of the event. It also aims to show how a professional institution and its members were involved with the war effort.
There will be monthly extracts from the IEE (now the IET) Council Minutes giving contemporary views and discussing actions taken to assist Great Britain and its Allies. All the obituaries from the IEE’s WWI Roll of Honour will be posted over the life of the blog. These obituaries give extensive information about the military campaigns in which the individuals died, in addition to biographical information, and so will provide an ongoing commentary on the progress of the war. In addition further stories, and personal accounts will be posted taken from collections held within the IET Archives which give a personal view of an electrical engineer’s experiences during World War I.
For original material in our collections please search our catalogue.