The end of the First World War

Preparation and Planning

The outlined activities and supporting stimuli provide sufficient material to cover at least one lesson. The suggested timings in the Lesson Plan grid are only a guide and you may choose to increase the time allocated to particular activities.

Many of the activities involve multi-media; therefore if you are able, ensure you have access to a laptop and overhead or whiteboard projector to show students the attached PowerPoint slides.

Ensure that you photocopy enough of the Student Worksheets for the whole class. Students complete Worksheets 1 and 2 in pairs and Worksheet 3 is used in three large groups. You will need to prepare enough copies.

About the MOD Topic

Although submarines were invented in 1578 it wasn't until the First World War (1914-1918) that they began to be used as serious and effective weapons of war. Submarines were used to great effect by both sides during the First World War helping to destroy merchant ships and slow the import of vital industrial goods and food significantly.

The Royal Navy (RN) Submarine Service, equipped in the main with the excellent E-Class boat, and operating in the confined and distinctly unhealthy arenas of the Baltic and Dardanelles, sank 54 enemy warships, including 19 submarines.

The Royal Navy Submarine Service is the collective name given to the submarine element of the Royal Navy. It is sometimes known as the "Silent Service". During the First World War, the submarine service was awarded five of the Royal Navy's 14 Victoria Crosses. Today submarines support land operations against targets up to 1000 miles away with pinpoint accuracy. The Submarine Service also provides the UK's strategic nuclear deterrent.

The present complement of submarines within the RN is four Ballistic Submarines, based at Faslane on the West coast of Scotland, approximately 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Glasgow, and 11 Fleet Submarines divided in location between Faslane and Devonport near Plymouth.

Further information available from the Royal Navy website:

The first prototype of the Mark I tank was tested by the British Army on 8th September 1915. Although initially termed "land ships" by the British Army, initial vehicles were referred to as "water-carriers" (then shortened to "tanks") to preserve secrecy. While the British took the lead in tank development, the French were not far behind and fielded their first tanks in 1917. The Germans, on the other hand, were slower to develop tanks, concentrating on anti-tank weapons.

Initial results were mixed, with reliability problems causing considerable attrition rates during combat deployment and transit. The heavily bombed-out terrain was relatively impassable, and only highly mobile tanks such as the Mark I and FTs performed reasonably well. The Mark I's rhomboid shape meant it could navigate larger obstacles, especially long trenches, better than many modern armoured fighting vehicles.

Tanks still play an important role in the British Army today and are operated by the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC). These tanks are amongst the most formidable fighting vehicles in the world. The five Armoured Regiments have the battle-proven Challenger 2 (CR2) Main Battle Tank (MBT), the five Formation Reconnaissance (FR) regiments have the agile Scimitar (Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) - CVR(T)), and the Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Regiment (Jt CBRN Regt) has the Fuchs with its ability to detect hazardous materials in any environment.

Every regiment in the HCav (Household Cavalry) and RAC takes great pride in its history, traditions and ethos. This is ably demonstrated wherever the regiments are serving today at home or on operations.

Further information available from the Army website:

The First World War also saw the first instances of aircraft being used during a conflict. Initially they were used for reconnaissance and surveillance purposes but by 1915, British forces were using aircraft armed with machine guns. There was little tactical bombing due to the difficulty in producing aircraft which could carry heavy enough loads to make this effective.

In April 1918 the Royal Air Force (RAF) was formed by the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service. It was the first air force in the world of significant size which was independent of Army or Navy control. After the War, the service was drastically cut and its inter-war years were relatively quiet. The RAF played a hugely significant role in the Second World War (1939-1945) undertaking the bombing of German targets and protecting the United Kingdom from attacking German aircraft.

The RAF is still a vital part of the British Armed Forces, operating almost 1,100 aircraft and, in March 2008 had a projected trained strength of 41,440 regular personnel. The majority of the RAF's aircraft and personnel are based in the UK with many others serving on operations (principally Afghanistan, the Middle East, the Balkans, and the South Atlantic) or at long-established overseas bases (notably in the Falkland Islands, Qatar, Germany, Cyprus, and Gibraltar).

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) is an agency of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and exists to supply the very best, impartial, scientific and technical research and advice to the MOD and other Government Departments.

Since Dstl's creation, it has tackled some of the most challenging science and technology problems facing the UK Government and has developed some exciting solutions.

Dstl is the centre of scientific excellence for the UK MOD, housing one of the largest groups of scientists and engineers in public service in the country. Its 3,500 strong workforce includes some of the nation's most talented and creative scientists.
With the brief to ensure that the UK Armed Forces and Government are supported by world class scientific advice, Dstl delivers defence research, specialist technical services and the ability to track global technological developments.

Its capabilities compare with the best in the world, supporting procurement decisions, defence policy-making and operations.

Further Opportunities for Learning

Get students to brainstorm: How do you think the adaptation or use of these wartime technologies made a difference to civilian life in post-war Britain? (Clearly there was a major development of civil flying in the "inter war" period, and wider use of tracked vehicles in industry and agriculture.)

General question for debate: Do you think that the rate of technological development in all aspects of life is closely related to need for new military technology in times of war or political tension?

Student worksheet answers

Download the teachers notes PDF to access the answers for this lesson.

The end of the First World War


  • Exam Board Links

    • AQA B
    • WJEC A
    • CCEA

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