Centenary of World War One: The National World War One Museum


2014 marks 100 years since World War One commenced. A conflict that officially raged from July 28th, 1914 until an armistice was declared on November 11th, 1918. Many political events and imperial desires lead to this war but the key trigger point was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo on June 28th, 1914.

Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand
Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his family in 1910 (Photo Source: Imperial War Museum)
British Lord Kitchener World War One recruitment poster
Lord Kitchener recruitment poster

The assassination lead to violence against the Serbs and ultimately a declaration of war against Serbia by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Russian Empire would not stand for this attempt to remove her influence over the Balkans. One by one this dragged the major European powers into war.

The German ruler Kaiser William II was eager to expand his empire. By early August 1914 Germany had invaded Belgium and France and an attack upon the Russian Empire was underway. Great Britain then entered the war in defence of her European allies.

World War One was a war like no other before it. Nations from around the world fought against each other either siding with either the Triple Entente or the Central Powers.

Map Central, Allied and Neutral powers of WW1
Central, Allied and Neutral powers of WW1

The Triple Entente (Allied) powers were originally Great Britain, France and Russia. The Allies were also joined by the British Commonwealth nations such as Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa; along with Imperial Japan (the allies were later joined by other nations such as Italy in 1915 and the United States in 1917). The Central Powers primarily consisted of Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). Initially Italy was aligned to the Central Powers but declined to enter the war until 1915 when they ultimately sided with the Allied powers following secret negotiations with Great Britain and France for territorial claims following a successful outcome to the war.

Tsar Nicholas II (Russia) and his cousin King George V (Great Britain) - Berlin, 1913 (they look so similar!)
Tsar Nicholas II (Russia) and his cousin King George V (Great Britain) – Berlin, 1913 (they look so similar!)
Germany & Austro-Hungary "In Firm Faith" Kaiser Wilhelm II & Kaiser Franz Joseph I
Germany & Austria-Hungary “In Firm Faith” Kaiser Wilhelm II & Kaiser Franz Joseph I
German troops during the "Operation Michael" offensive of March 21st, 1918
German troops during the “Operation Michael” offensive of March 21st, 1918

Trench warfare became a reality and an almost stalemate situation arose. Huge battles with hundreds of thousands of men facing off against each other with senseless charges across no mans land to a bloody end were a regular occurrence but little ever seemed to be gained.

The ANZAC's in the trenches "Shrapnel Gully" at Gallipoli Cove in Turkey 1915 (Photo Source: Australian War Memorial)
The ANZAC’s in the trenches “Shrapnel Gully” at Gallipoli Cove in Turkey 1915 (Photo Source: Australian War Memorial)
British Trench 1917 WW1
British Trench 1917
German Trench WW1
German Trench
British Troops go over the top of their trenches during the Battle of the Somme 1916
British Troops go over the top of their trenches during the Battle of the Somme 1916

World War One was a war that saw the widespread introduction of many modern weapons onto the battlefield including the machine gun, aircraft (including huge bombers and Zeppelins), tanks and more. The tactics of war changed and the creeping artillery barrage and its mass destruction became integral to any battle.

A British Vickers machine gun crew during the 1916 Battle of the Somme (Photo Source: Imperial War Museum)
A British Vickers machine gun crew during the 1916 Battle of the Somme (Photo Source: Imperial War Museum)
A de Havilland DH5 scout aircraft of the Australian Flying Corps No. 2 Squadron in France 1917
A de Havilland DH5 scout aircraft of the Australian Flying Corps No. 2 Squadron in France 1917 (Photo Source: Australian War Memorial)
1915 British propaganda postcard entitled "The End of the 'Baby-Killer" - bringing down a German Zeppelin bomber over London WW1
1915 British propaganda postcard entitled “The End of the ‘Baby-Killer” – bringing down a German Zeppelin bomber over London
German AEG G.IV Bomber operated 1916-1918  last survivor
German AEG G.IV Bomber operated 1916-1918 (photo taken at the Canadian Air & Space Museum in Ottawa, Ontario 2013)
British Mark V tanks near Bellicourt in 1918
British Mark V tanks near Bellicourt in 1918 (Britain first introduced Mark I tanks into the Somme battlefield in 1916)
WW1 A German Sturmpanzerwagen A7V
A German Sturmpanzerwagen A7V. These tanks were introduced in 1918

Ultimately the war ended in defeat of the Central powers. This also saw the end of their royal reigns (the Kaisers Wilhelm I, Frederick III and Wilhelm II ruled Prussia and then greater Germany from 1871-1918 and the Habsburg dynasty of the Austrio-Hungarian Empire ruled from 1867 to 1918). After heavy fighting on the eastern front, World War One also resulted in the end of the Tsarist reign of a weakened Russia with the rise Communism during the Russian Revolution of 1917. The revolution resulted in the brutal murder of Czar Nicholas II and his family. After almost 200 years the Russian Empire was no more (1721-1917). It was a brutal war that changed the face of the world and modern warfare alike.

Kaiser Wilhelm II
Kaiser Wilhelm II 1859-1941 (Photo Source: Imperial War Museum)
Tsar Nicholas II and his family
Tsar Nicholas II and his family

Over 65,000,000 men were mobilized to fight in World War One. Of these over 8,500,000 were killed, 21,000,000 were wounded and 7,750,000 were captured or missing. 57.5% of the mobilized forces became a casualty of war (statistics obtained from PBS resources). It was brutal and bloody. The world had never seen anything like this before. They called it “The Great War“, “the war to end all wars” and so on. Alas as we know so well, that was not to be true.

A German prisoner helps British wounded make their way to a dressing station near Bernafay Wood following fighting on Bazentin Ridge during the Battle of the Somme - July 19th, 1916
A German prisoner helps British wounded make their way to a dressing station near Bernafay Wood following fighting on Bazentin Ridge during the Battle of the Somme – July 19th, 1916 (Photo Source: Imperial War Museum)

The war introduced many new technologies and given its global impact, touched the lives of so many (including my own family). These factors ensure it still remains a fascinating part of history and a lesson in the futility of war. Lest we forget.

Lest we forget ww1
Lest We Forget

The National World War One Museum and Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri is a fitting tribute to those lost in the war. The museum has an extensive collection of artifacts including uniforms and weaponry and gives a great insight into the trench warfare of that period. Multimedia presentations bring home some reality to the events of the great battles.

National World One Museum & Liberty Memorial Kansas City Missouri
National World One Museum & Liberty Memorial
Liberty Memorial Tower Kansas City MO USA
Liberty Memorial Tower
Liberty Memorial KSC
Top of the tower
Sphinx stand guard at the Liberty Memorial KSC
Sphinx stand guard at the Liberty Memorial
Sphynx Liberty Memorial Kansas City Missouri
The Sphinx stand guard but their eyes are shielded from war by their wings

The focus of the museum is not just US involvement in World War One. It covers the full period of 1914-1918 and the global scale of the conflict with displays of equipment and artifacts of both the Allied and Central Powers.

The machine gun and artillery came into lethal effect on the battlefields of WW1 National WW1 Museum Kansas City
The machine gun and artillery came into lethal effect on the battlefields of WW1
Artillery pieces at the National WW1 Museum Missouri
Artillery pieces at the National WW1 Museum
The role of aviation grew and became integral to the military in WW1 National WW1 Museum KSC
The role of aviation grew and became integral to the military in WW1
National WW1 museum Renault FT-17 tank Kansas City
French built Renault FT-17 light tank used by the US Army (this one has a huge hole in it from German artillery fire) at the National WW1 Museum
German Pickelhaube National WW1 Museum
German Pickelhaube
gas mask Gas attacks were a constant threat in the trenches of WW1
Gas attacks were a constant threat in the trenches of WW1
WW1 US Army Mule Wagon Kansas City
WW1 US Army Mule Wagon
French and British WW1 uniforms National WW1 Museum KSC
French and British WW1 uniforms
Hand grenades were a big part of trench warfare in WW1 National WW1 Museum
Hand grenades were a big part of trench warfare in WW1
Field Ambulance National WW1 Museum Kansas City
Field Ambulance
WW1 Motorbike National WW1 Museum Kansas City
WW1 Motorbike
WW1 Bayonets
WW1 Bayonets
Soldiers marching through the battlefield (a multimedia presentation), a captured German helmet posted back to the US and French Officer Uniform
Soldiers marching through the battlefield (a multimedia presentation), a captured German helmet posted back to the US and French Officer Uniform
Uniforms, helmets equipment of the British, German and Russians (including nurses for the latter)
Uniforms, helmets equipment of the British, German and Russians (including nurses for the latter)

The vantage point of the museum up on a hill also provides some great views of downtown Kansas City below. If you get the chance don’t miss going to the top of the Liberty Memorial for an even better all round view of the city.

Kansas City, Missouri from the Liberty Memorial
Kansas City, Missouri
The view of Kansas City, Missouri from atop the Liberty Tower
The view of Kansas City, Missouri from atop the Liberty Tower

The museum has a great collection of original recruitment, propaganda and war bonds posters from World War One. They are well preserved and displayed to really highlight each nations message at the time.

Weapons and posters on display National WW1 Museum Kansas City
Weapons and posters on display
Posters were common for WW1 recruitment, war bonds and propaganda
Posters were common for WW1 recruitment, war bonds and propaganda
From Europe to the United States the message was much the same
From Europe to the United States the message was much the same

Overall the The National World War One Museum is a very interesting place and the displays are well planned out and informative. Especially those that focus on the trench warfare that was so much a part of the Western Front in Europe. It is a must see facility for those interested in military history and a great tribute to all those who fought and were lost in World War One.

In the British trenches at the National WW1 Museum Kansas City MO
In the British trenches at the National WW1 Museum
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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Kamila Pala says:

    Very interesting text and great photos! 🙂 Have a nice summer! Kamila

    1. Deano says:

      Thanks. Hope you have been having a great summer too? I am up in Alaska at the moment. Amazing!

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