Motherhood, Loss and the First World War

Motherhood, Loss and the First World War acknowledges the universality of bereavement as the defining experience of the First World War with a special focus on the impact on mothers — an overlooked aspect of grief from the period. The project is in partnership with Royal Holloway University of London and the Institute for Historical Research.

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Motherhood, Loss and the First World War will share community-researched stories of women bereaved during the First World War, bringing to light their experiences and inviting communities across the country to remember them. The project will have a special focus on women’s groups to discover these stories and to respond to them in creative and meaningful ways, empowering isolated women by connecting them with their community, and developing citizenship, civil society and advocacy skills. It will also bring to light new areas of historical research into the impact bereavement had on societies in Britain during and after the First World War.

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An example case study: Mrs Christian Donaldson Gunn

Bromley, Kent

Mrs. Gunn’s son, Private John Alexander Gunn died in action during the Battle of Somme in on 14 November 1916 when he was 31. While on active service John Gunn made botanical notes, and in his memory his mother had them professionally published into a pamphlet after he died. She also included a letter in the pamphlet written to her by Prive Gunn’s officer, which praised Private Gunn as being hardworking and intelligent. When the war memorial was unveiled in Mrs. Dunn’s home of Bromley, she could not stand to go.


Call for community research contributions

Your group can research mothers from the UK who lost sons or daughters whilst they were serving in the First World War. Research shared by your group could include letter exchanges between mothers and sons during the First World War, poetry written about bereavement during the period, newspaper articles, and biographical information about the mothers and their experience of losing their children. You could look into your family histories, look at local archives, contact local history groups, use the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database, look for books or find memorials.

Once the research is complete we invite you to share your research with us by emailing You can also join our Facebook group and connect with others who are taking part in the project. Email us at for full information and to take part.

How you can get involved in Motherhood, Loss and the First World War

Visit our take part page to get involved.

Visit our funding page to find out about the expenses scheme we offer for community groups to participate in our projects. Email us at to take part and for further information.

Join the Motherhood, Loss and the First World War project

Share your stories with us on social media using #MothersWW1

 @Big_Ideas_Co          Big Ideas

  MothersWW1 Facebook group

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Motherhood, Loss and the First World War is funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. Motherhood, Loss and the First World War is part of Remember Together, which brings diverse communities together to commemorate shared – and often sidelined – heritage, bringing significant marginalised heritage into the mainstream.