The Macnaghten War Memorial Library was officially opened in December 1938 and contained over 5,000 autographed books about the war in English, French and German. The collection was collated by Old Etonian, Sir Eugen Millington-Drake, who worked as a diplomat both prior to and during the First World War. As a former member of Hugh Macnaghten’s House at Eton, which had lost 53 boys, Millington-Drake felt compelled to commemorate his contemporaries. The college has supplemented this collection with documents, letters, maps and 3D objects relating to the war.
The exhibition included records of the war about and by some of the combatants, signed by a number of the leading personalities of the British, German and French High Commands. It also considered the work of artists, painters and caricaturists, and looked at popular artefacts produced during the war, including some made specifically for children. Also considered were the work of poets and novelists and the important role of official and personal photography.
To commemorate those who fought and died in the Great War, we chose five Britons — Edith Cavell and four soldiers– to represent hundreds of thousands of other combatants -. Unlike Cavell, none of the soldiers are remembered nationally today, yet each story poignantly shows the appalling destruction of the war on families throughout Europe and across the globe.
Curated by Michael Meredith, Curator of Modern Collections and Madeleine Smith, Assistant Librarian, Eton College.