Engineers at War: an online exhibition

The IET Archives has worked on a collaborative project with the archives of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)  to produce a joint online exhibition to tell the stories of engineers and engineering innovations in the First World War. 

A collaborative online exhibition

The First World War changed the world. In addition to the cultural, political, geographical and technological changes, not to mention the devastating human cost, it brought huge advances in the engineering sector. 

The exhibition will run to mark the centenary of the war from 2014 to 2018 and highlight stories from all three institutions, some using previously unseen material, to tell the stories of engineering's contribution: from the development of the tank to the creation of communication lines to the front. On the home front engineering played an important role in the development of artificial limbs and the manufacture of munitions. It also marked a change in women's employment in the manufacturing industries. Members from all three institutions were sent to the front or worked on new technologies and behind the scenes to ensure the war effort was assisted at home and abroad. 

Engineers at War: From Home Front to Battle Front includes an illustrated timeline of key events throughout the period plus images and film footage of original archive material to tell the stories of three branches of engineering that were used to aid the war effort in defence, infrastructure and on the home front. 

  Photograph of the London Electrical Engineers from First World War ref. SCMSS 054  


The First World War and the IET

The First World War had a profound impact on the IEE (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, Savoy Place,  to the War Office. A recruiting office was set up 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 which has been digitised by Ancestry.co.uk. Biographical sketches including family details, education and work history as well as a detailed history of service during the war is now fully searchable. Some members also have a photograph in uniform with their service hsitory. To find out more about accessing this facility please visit our Electrical Engineers records on Ancestry section of the website.