The Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the Institution of Engineering and Technology and the Institution of Civil Engineers are the three largest engineering institutions in the UK, each also has an International membership. Since the 1800's we have been representing and accrediting engineers through our membership programmes, and advocating for the profession and related disciplines. 

The Institutions co-ordinated their support of enlisted engineers, members were encouraged to join the newly formed Divisional Engineering Units of the Royal Naval Division. At the request of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, the Civil's and Mechanical's Councils each subscribed 10/- towards the provision of band instruments for the units. The Institutions also acted together to assist dependents of those enlisting in the Division, to obtain Government allowances and creating a fund for immediate relief until the allowance was received.

Institutions at War

“Mechanical engineers joined all ranks of the services, and also worked towards the war effort as civilians; from Major’s to privates members of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers were able to contribute. Members were encouraged to invest in war bonds and join new military divisions that were seeking engineers. 1,270 Institution members and 8 staff members went on active service: 7.1% of members died and 12.5% of staff died. In 1916, the Institution's Council decided that any man on active service who was approaching/over the age of 28 could apply for Associate Membership without having to sit an examination. The Institution’s headquarters building also did its bit: almost immediately, the top floor of the ‘new’ wing was taken over by the Prince of Wales’ National Relief Fund; then rooms on the third floor were occupied by the Office of Works for the Explosives Department (Ministry of Munitions), who soon spread to the fourth floor as well; next the meeting hall was occupied; and in June 1915 the whole of the building was given over to the Office of Works. It was not returned until 1919. Discussion papers show that both during and after the conflict we were debating the effects of the war, both on technology and on society, often due to the huge growth of the female workforce that accompanied the war.

Karyn French, Archivist, Institution of Mechanical Engineers

"Upwards of 3000, or 38%, of Members and Students of the Institution of Civil Engineers served in the forces, of whom 345 lost their lives. Between them, serving members were awarded 393 medals, including a Victoria Cross and 317 Military Crosses. The headquarters building was used by various units. The War Office Department rented the Upper Library for the committee of the Engineers and Railway Staff Corp, an organisation of civilian labour in the London District. The London Scottish 2nd Reserve Battalion used the Lecture Theatre for lectures to the officers and men of the Battalion. Other units included the staff of the Commander Royal Engineer, the London Anti-Aircraft Defences and a branch of High Explosives Department of the Ministry of Munitions used parts of the building."

Carol Morgan, Archivist, Institution of Civil Engineers

"The First World War had a profound impact on the IEE (now the IET) and its members. The Institution had strong military links: many of its founder members were in the armed forces, and the IEE Council had played a major role in the formation of the Electrical Engineers Volunteers (RE) in the 1890's. On the outbreak of war, the Council agreed to offer space in its building to the War Office free of charge and put in place a National Service Committee to identify how its trained members could best be deployed in wartime. A recruiting office was set up at Savoy Place for the engineering units of the Royal Navy, and volunteers were also requested for service in the Royal Garrison Artillery. In total 2021 members served in the war, approximately 30% of the entire membership. Others, many in reserved occupations, joined the volunteer forces. 162 deaths are recorded in the IEE Roll of Honour."

Anne Locker, Library and Archives Manager, Institution of Engineering and Technology

The Exhibition

'Engineers at War: From Home Front to Battle Front' is a collaborative exhibition between the archives of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). All these branches of engineering used their skills to aid the war effort, to honour the victims of the war we felt it important to come together to help tell their stories. We will be working with partners throughout 2014-2018 to bring you in-depth stories on specialist areas such as prosthetic limbs. These will be announced on the IMechE blog.

The Partnership is led by the Imperial War Museum, bringing together cultural institutions of all sizes who are commemorating the War; events are happening all over the country. Resources are also being provided, suitable for all ages, to help us better understand the conflict.

Archive Contacts

Institution of Mechanical Engineers
Institution of Civil Engineers
Institution of Engineering and Technology

Guest Features

We have invited a selection of other organizations to contribute related stories from their own archives. Back pages will be available here

Royal Armouries, focuses on the Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, looks at the battle against Tropical Diseases.

Royal Air Force Museum, the impact on aviation at the Royal Aircraft Factory.

Royal Engineers Museum, the role and development of Tunnelling.

Royal College of Surgeons, on the development of Facial Reconstruction.

Library of the Society of Friends (Quakers), the role of engineering in the Friends Ambulance Unit.




View of the British fleet from an airship
View of the Fleet, taken from an airship.


Airship shed, steelwork
Airship shed, steelwork.


Dr CV Burton regarding disease/prevention
Dr CV Burton writing on disease/prevention.


Members of the Women’s Forestry Corps in Sussex
Members of the Women’s Forestry Corps in Sussex.


Credits/footnotes:

Images in order, top to bottom

Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
Institution of Civil Engineers.
Institution of Engineering and Technology.
Q106565 Members of the Women’s Forestry Corps in Sussex  Imperial War Museum 1914 Partnership.