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Heroes of WWI


The different roles played by soldiers, politicians, monarchs and leaders and commanders during World War I give us valuable insight into the politics of war and how battles were won or lost. But perhaps more than this, the tales of bravery of the ordinary Tommy or commanding officer give us an idea of the extent of the bravery of the men on the ground.

A total of 628 Victoria Crosses (VC) were awarded during the First World War. Awarded for valour ‘in the face of the enemy’, this prestigious award is for bravery above and beyond the call of duty while in a life-threatening situation. The individual stories behind these medals are heart-warming and at times poignant, especially as many soldiers did not survive to receive their medal. Awarded to any rank of soldier across all theatres of war, the list of VC winners is a roll of honour unlike any other, and reflects the diverse nature of the conflict.

There were other heroes of World War I, however, of a more controversial manner. Lord Kitchener was one of the main protagonists. Appointed Secretary of State for War by Prime Minister Asquith early on in the conflict, he began a huge recruitment campaign, with his own face on posters across the country. Along with Field Marshall Haig, another senior officer in the War, Kitchener argued for the use of the BEF (British Expeditionary Force), and many of his tactical suggestions were proved right. Kitchener was killed by the sinking of HMS Hampshire in 1916. The monarch himself, George V, also played a key role in the First World War, visiting the troops over 450 times. 

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