Jun 28, 1914 - Nov 11, 1918

1914: When the World Changed Forever

York Museums Trust

“Key Objects from the Exhibition”
Curated by Alison Bodley / November 2014

On June 28, 2014 – 100 years to the day that Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, sparking the outbreak of war- York Castle Museum launched the exhibition 1914: When the World Changed Forever. 

Here is a collection of some of the more unusual, moving, brutal and odd objects featured in the exhibition.

Horse Gas Mask

Gas attacks were a danger to men and horses alike. This gas mask was designed to be worn over the horse's nose and mouth - like a nosebag.

City of York Gift Tin, Christmas 1914

In 1914, the City of York sent a gift of a decorative tin full of Rowntree's chocolate to all of York's men then serving in the armed forces. 

This was organised by the Lord Mayor, John Bowes Morrell, and the Sheriff of York, Oscar Rowntree, both of whom were directors of Rowntree's.

Trench clubs were used during night time raids by both sides. 

Used alongside knives, they were a quiet way of killing or capturing prisoners.

Crudely Shaped Trench Club, Possibly German 1914-1918
Papier Mache 'Dummy head', about 1916

Dummy heads were a new innovation in World War One, and it would be raised up over the parapet to draw out enemy fire. The angle of the bullet entry and exit holes could be used to work out enemy positions.

Zeppalarm, around 1916

In May 1916, nine people were killed in a Zeppelin air raid in York. This zeppalarm was made by Alec W. House, a York-based electrical engineer. 

It would have worked by plugging into a light socket - like other electrical appliances of the era. It would also have been connected to the gas supply. 

When a zeppelin was sighted, the gas company would reduce the supply, causing house lights to flicker as a warning. 

The zeppalarm was an additional warning - when the gas supply was lowered, the light would go off and the alarm would ring.

Shorthand Diaries, 1917 and 1918

These diaries were written by William 'Wass' Reader who served in the East Riding Yeomanry. 

During World War One he saw action in Eygpt and Palestine and was wounded in 1917.

The diaries give us a fascinating insight into the everyday life of a World War One soldier serving overseas.

Vickers Machine Gun

The Vickers Gun was the standard British machine gun from 1912.

It was heavy and mounted on a tripod, requiring a team of six men to transport it to and operate it on the battlefield.

Although difficult to use on advancing troops, machine guns were used to deadly effect from defensive positions

Short Magazine Lee Enfield (1907-1918)

The SMLE, nicknamed “smelly”, had a reputation as an extremely reliable and accurate weapon.

It was the standard British infantry rifle during the World War One and continued to be used into the 1950s.

In well trained hands it’s rate of fire was almost double that of the German Mauser service rifle.

This was the first hand grenade used by the British in World War One. 

It was thrown using the cane handle for a greater range and detonated on impact. 

The streamers made sure it landed nose-first. Soldiers had to avoid hitting the fuse on the trench wall during the back-swing of the throw. 

This would detonate the grenade in the trench.

Hand Grenade No.1 (Mark I)
Victoria Cross Gallantry Medal

York Castle Museum has three Victoria Crosses which will be on rotational display.

The one above is extremely rare as it features the blue Naval Ribbon. It was awarded posthumously to Humphrey Lieut Osbaldston Brooke Firman.

He died leading a boat delivering 270 tons of supplies to besieged allied forces in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) in 1916.

All of the crew were volunteers as the mission was thought to be so dangerous.

Firman died with many of the other volunteers when the boat was spotted and shelled by Ottoman forces.

Credits: Story

Curator — Alison Bodley
Data — Helen Thornton & Martin Fell
Photography — Graham Thorne & Mike Linstead
Created by — York Castle Museum

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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