It’s morning. You’ve got a bit of a cold coming on, so you blow your nose on a paper tissue. You use a teabag to make yourself a cuppa, stirring your mug with a stainless steel spoon. As you finish your drink, you check your wristwatch and see you’re running late for school, so you zip up your jacket and head outside.

The First World War was not just about fighting; it also inspired many new inventions. Amazingly, all five of these everyday objects had their origins in the war. Some, like teabags, were invented to make life easier for soldiers in the trenches. Others, like paper tissues, were developed after the war ended, inspired by its technology. (In this case, filters inside gas masks.)

Meanwhile, medical pioneers were transforming surgery. The first ever blood bank was set up on the Western Front in 1917, allowing blood transfusions to save the lives of wounded soldiers, and countless more lives since. Plastic surgery was developed to treat soldiers whose faces had been badly injured. The scientist Marie Curie (above) invented a portable X-ray machine that could be used on the battlefield.

For more about the pioneers of the First World War, visit The Royal British Legion. TRBL has also created free downloadable assemblies and lesson plans with the National Literacy Trust. There are six sets of five lesson plans, two each for Key Stages 2, 3 and 4, accompanied by an assembly plan each for primary and secondary schools.

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From sanitary towels to wristwatches — the British Legion introduces some of the inventions that came from the First World War.


  1. Design your own invention which aims to make life easier for soldiers or doctors on the battlefield.
  2. Choose one of the inventions mentioned above and create a presentation about who invented it, why, and how it has been used since.
  3. Check out this list of words and phrases that also have their origin in the First World War. Then write a one-page story that incorporates as many of them as possible.