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Recruitment and conscription

What was the public response to the outbreak of war?


Men could volunteer for service in the armed forces until 1916, when conscription was introduced. However, some people could not or did not wish to fight.



Presentation + Life Stories + Activity = Your Lesson!

Introductory Presentation

Use this ready-made PowerPoint to introduce Lives of the First World War to your class.

Download (14MB)
Choose your Life Stories

Pick Life Stories to investigate and download the Powerpoint containing primary sources relating to that person.

Life Stories
Follow the Activity

Take a look at our suggested activities to try with your class, as well as other IWM resources that relate to the theme.

Next step

Use Lives of the First World War to research names on your local war memorial - this could be a school memorial to former pupils, or a town or community monument.

Create a Community

Recommended Life Stories

We have selected Life Stories connected to this theme. Download the pack of sources connected to the Life Story.

Photo of Albert Edward French

Albert Edward French

Albert volunteered underage, at 16 years old

Download Pack
Photo of John William Henry Boon

John William Henry Boon

John was in the Derby Scheme, and was called up at the end of 1916

Download Pack
Photo of James Hindle Hudson

James Hindle Hudson

James refused to fight and was imprisoned as a Conscientious Objector

Download Pack
Photo of Thomas Alfred Hooker

Thomas Alfred Hooker

Thomas was still at school when war broke out, and was conscripted upon his 18th birthday

Download Pack
Photo of Henry Atholl Charles Wallace

Henry Atholl Charles Wallace

Henry enlisted in Canada in 1914

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Photo of Edward Morgan Forster

Edward Morgan Forster

Edward Morgan Forster was a pacifist who volunteered with the Red Cross

Download Pack

Suggested Activities

1. Use the facts, images, evidence and stories on Life Story pages to compare and contrast individual experiences - think about similarities and differences between these people’s lives.

  • How did they respond to the call to arms?
  • What are the key themes in their stories? Consider concepts such as identity, separation, friendship, love, bravery and loss.


2. Study one of the sources in detail. When was it written, and for what purpose? What does it tell you about the person’s Life Story? Pick out details about their age, background and family. How does this information relate to their wartime experiences?


3. Create a mini exhibition based on one person’s story. Select three sources from the person’s Life Story page, and create a title and theme for the exhibition.

4. Encourage creative responses inspired by a Life Story, such as poetry, letters, art, drama, music, or dance.

Activity Resources

Supported by

The Charles Skey Charitable Trust


We really enjoyed using Lives of the First World War ... the student feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

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