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 of 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.


Take part in the project

Groups can take part in a number of activities for Motherhood, Loss and the First World War. We are leading workshops for women’s groups across the UK which help develop confidence in communication and participants can respond creatively to some of the experiences of mothers explored through the project.

Groups can also discover the stories and experiences of mothers who lost their sons and daughters whilst they were serving in the First World War and respond creatively to them. There is also the opportunity to research mothers from the UK who lost sons or daughters whilst they were serving in the First World War.

Our project can also help your community commemorate mothers who lost sons or daughters whilst they were serving in the First World War, by connecting the past with the present through the familiar activity of play. We are gifting playground equipment to selected community groups who want to add to an existing playground or start a new one. Each piece of equipment will be engraved with words and quotes from communities, reflecting the relationship between mothers and their sons or daughters. Find out more by emailing We are especially looking for locations where mothers have lost more than one son or daughter in World War One, but your group may have your own reasons for wanting a playground memorial.

An example case study

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.

Mrs Christian Donaldson Gunn, Bromley, Kent

Click here for your free resource pack with more case studies >

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

Email us at to take part and for further information.

Keep up-to-date with the project

You can share your stories with us and how you’re getting involved on social media using #MothersWW1.

 @Big_Ideas_Co          Big Ideas        _bigideas

  MothersWW1 Facebook group

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Motherhood, Loss and the First World War is led by Big Ideas and funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), with additional funding from a National Lottery grant from the Big Lottery Fund to work in the Home Nations. 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.