Many people were against war at first but once Germany invaded Belgium on 3rd August anti-war feelings evaporated almost overnight being replaced with fierce patriotism. Women in Britain cheered on husbands and sons as they went off to fight and there were long queues outside army recruitment offices. Little did they know that this war would goon for four long years!This project is about how the war changed life in Britain. Included in this will be information on the following:Recruitment – voluntary and conscription, Pals, ConscientiousobjectorsDORA – Defence of the Realm ActRationingCensorship and PropagandaRole of WomenHow did it all start?There were no major conflicts in Europe in the hundred years before 1914. All of the countries kept peace between themselves by a system of balanced alliances.
This Balance Power, as it was called, depended upon opposing alliances being roughly equal strength. The system had one great danger. If the balance were to be upset the two sides went to war with each other, and all the major countries of Europe would be plunged into conflict. That is what happened in 1914, and World War I began.It took just six weeks to shatter the peace, which had lasted for a century. The first incident was the murder in Sarajevo on 28th June of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne.
Sarajevo was capital of the Austrian province of Bosnia. The Australians blamed Bosnia’s neighbour Serbia for plotting the assassination, and on 28th July declared war.Taking sidesSerbia was under Russian protection, so Russia called up her armies. This alarmed Austria’s ally Germany, who had always feared attack from Russia. Russia was allied to France, and France was burning to avenge her defeat by Germany in 1870. More than anything Germany feared war on two fronts and so she set about eliminating the French before they could combine with their Russian allies.To outflank the French defences, German armies struck west through neutral Belgium. Britain was bound by treaty to come to Belgium’s aid if she were attacked.
Britain’s ultimatum to Germany to withdraw was ignored, and on 4th August Britain joined the rest of Europe in war.Who fought for the British in the War on the Western Front?IntroductionWhen the war began, the British Army was small compared with those of other countries. There were a huge number of volunteers from Britain, which included troops from Scotland, Wales, as well as England, this made up most of the British army as there were near to two million.
But more men were needed. So Britain called upon different parts of the Empire for support.CanadaCanada was one of the first countries to respond to the call for forces.
Canadian troops arrived in April 1915. Around 60,000 Canadians were killed out of the 400,000 that fought on the Western Front. When the Germans launched their last main offensive in March 1918, they avoided the part of the front where the Canadians were, and many Canadians took this as a complement and thought they must have been known as tough fighters.New ZealandNew Zealand was one of the most highly regarded fighting units on the Western front. Around 100,000 fighting men came to France, out of which 13,500 didn’t return and 35,000 were wounded. Sergeant Dick Travis was awarded the Victoria Cross for extreme bravery.
During a night operation he managed to capture two machine guns and when an enemy officer and three men ran to retake them he killed them all single-handed. Unfortunately he was killed 24 hours later.CaribbeanEleven battalions of West Indian infantry, over 15,000 men, were recruited from various islands. They all wanted to fight as soldiers yet when they reached France, they were used to unload ships, and supply troops at the front line with ammunition.
Whether this was due to racism is unknown. They were badly housed and found it difficult to adjust to the cold weather. Over 100 died of sickness and the enemy killed 185. Later, two battalions did see some action and were highly praised for their bravery.AustraliaThe Australian Imperial Force reached France in March 1916. They were a wholly volunteer army. There was over 300,000 Australians that fought in the war fronts, the majority in France.
Where 175,000 were killed or wounded. The Sommes, Ypres and Passchendaele were just a few of the many battles that the Australians were involved in.IndiaOver 138,000 Indian troops fought, and 5000 were killed in France. Many were withdrawn during 1915 to fight on other fronts. Around a million Indian soldiers fought on all the fronts overall. Indian soldiers and cavalry included Sikhs and Ghurkhas; they were in action on the Western Front from as early as October 1914. They played a key role in the British sectors of the front during early German attacks when the British were very stretched.
RecruitmentWhen the war broke out, Britain only had a small trained army; it needs a much bigger one without delay. This meant the government had work quickly and so they began a massive recruitment campaign. They used posters and leaflets to encouraged more men to join the army. They also had recruitment offices in every town and making up speeches by government ministers. See the next page for an example of the type of posters that the government were putting up.There was already a strong anti-German atmosphere in Britain. The press just made this feeling even stronger with the regular stories they printed of all the German mayhem.
Here are three examples of the many stories printed:The recruitment drive was very successful. Half a million signed up in the first month. By 1916 over two million had been enlisted. See graph below.A lot of men that signed up to fight in the war were because of their friends. It was like a group of friends would all get together and decides to join up to fight in the war.
They thought “great I get to see the world with all my friends, it’ll be fun and then I can say I actually did something with my life”. It was because of this that sometimes all the men in villages got wiped out, as they were fighting together in a group and if a bombed landed right where they were then they would all be killed.In 1916 the government decided to introduce conscription for the first time. All men aged between 18 and 40 had to register for active service, they could be called upon at any time to go and fight.The government did this for various reasons. Mainly because the number of volunteers was falling, as you can see from the graph (above), recruitment was the lowest for any month since the start of the war. But the demand for troops was increasing. The dead and wounded needed replacing.
Another problem was that the volunteer system was damaging Britain’s agriculture and industry. For example, so many miners joined up that there were reports of their having to be sent back to provide essential supplies of coal. The volunteer system was also seen as unfair. Not all parts of society took an equal share of the burden. There was a feeling that some groups avoided the war altogether. Some of the fittest and most able men were not volunteering at all. In the end, many welcomed the government’s taking control of the situation and introducing conscription.
Not everyone welcomed conscription, however Fifty MPs, including leading Liberals, voted against it in Parliament. Another group who did not welcome it were opposed to the war for religious or political reasons. It would be against their conscience to fight so they were call conscientious objectors or sometimes even “conchies”. Conchies had to appear before a tribunal (a body appointed to adjudicate in some dispute matter), and prove they had a genuine reason for objecting to war and were not just cowards. Some conchies were sent to prison, where they were often badly treated. Others actually went tot the front and worked in field hospitals or as stretcher bears.
Some of the questions that consciences objects were asked were very hard answer without including violence or some other reason, which would prove you, weren’t actually a proper conscience objector. For example you might be asked what would you do if a German burst into the room and tried to rape your sitter? Someone actually answer this question saying, “I would attempt to place my self between them.” Or another question, which was known as the hardest question of all, was “Then are you willing to see your country defeated?” That’s the question that stops the mouths of many conscientious objects when they are trying to explain the position they were in as a “conscientious objector”. I don’t know anyone would say “yes” but if they say “No” then they are at once open to the reply “Then are you willing to let other men fight and die for you, while you stay quietly and safe from harm at home?” So it was hard to prove you were a conscientious objector but people managed to do so and got out of going to fight, some would say they were lucky and because people thought this if the conscientious objectors stayed at home not having to fight they managed to lose a number of friends and gain enemies.DORAIn 1914 the government passed the Defence of the Realm Act, which came to be known as DORA. It gave the government exceptional and wide-ranging powers to control many aspects of people’s daily lives.
It allowed it to take over any land or buildings it needed, and to take over any industries, which were important to war effort. It allowed the government to control what the public knew about the war through censorship. The government immediately took control of the coal industry so that the mines could be run to support the war effort rather then for the private profit of the owners.People’s lives wren also greatly affected by the passing of the Defence of the Realm Act, or DORA. This listed all the things people were no longer allowed to do now that Britain was at war, and also gave the government special powers (as mentioned above). The first measures were introduced on 8th August1914. During the war other rules were added.Under DORA the people of Britain were not allowed:* Talk about naval or military matters in public places* Spread rumours about military affairs* Trespass on railways or bridges* Fly a kite* Light bonfires or fireworks* Buy binoculars* Trespass on allotments* Melt down gold or silver* Give bread to dogs, chickens, or horses* Use invisible ink when writing abroad* Buy whisky or brandy in a railway refreshment room or similar place* Ring church bellsThe government of Britain could:* Try any civilian breaking these laws* Take possessions of any factory or workshop* Take any land needed* Censor newspapersAs the War continued, the government brought in many other measures.
For example:* It introduced British Summer Time (putting the clocks forward an hour) to give more daylight for work in the evening* It cut down on the pub opening hours* It gave instructions for beer to be watered down* Customers in pubs were not allowed to buy rounds of drinks.RationingOne of the aims of DORA was to prevent food shortages. At first, the British people themselves caused food shortage problems. As soon as war broke out they panicked and brought large amounts of food, which they hoarded at home.
Shops sold out completely within few days. However, everybody gradually calmed down and shortages did not really become serious until the end of 1916. Until that time much of Britain’s food was still important. But by 1917 the Germans were using their submarines to stop supply ships from getting through.
In April 1917 Britain had only six weeks’ worth of wheat stores! Food prices rose sharply and queues for food grew. It was a bleak year for most people. Coal was so short that in October it was rationed accordingly to the number of rooms in the house.In 1917 it was clear that DORA measures were not enough to reduce the amount of food being eaten or increase the amount being produced. The government tried to operate a voluntary ration scheme. It asked people to limit themselves to four pounds of bread (1.80 kilograms), two and a half pounds of meat (1.
13 kilograms), and three quarters of a pound of sugar (340 grams) each week. The King and Queen limited themselves to this ration and if you follow their example you were issued with a blue ribbon!But the campaign failed- shortages of bread and potatoes continued. Many working people could not afford to buy meat and sugar anyway- their diet had consisted of mainly bread even before the rationing was introduced! The rich, on the other hand, continued to live as luxuriously as ever.
Food was available for those who could afford it- on the black market (the illegal buying and selling of rationed goods) if necessary.Desperate attempts were made to grow more food. Nearly everybody started to keep an allotment where they could grow food.
They turned parks and tennis courts into vegetable plots where they grew potatoes, turnips and carrots and kept chickens.Under DORA the government had powers to take over land for growing food. In 1917 it decided to plough an extra two and half million acres of land. The amount of land used for farming increased from eleven million acres in 1914 to fourteen million acres in 1918. However, many farm workers had joined the army, and so much of the work on this extra land was carried out by the new Women’s Land Army. Prisoners of war and conscientious objectors (men who refused to join the army) were used as well.When women were asked to sign up for the Women’s Land Army 30,000 responded immediately.
They did work that would have been done mainly by men before the War, and were paid the same wages as men. The work was hard – stone picking, weeding, and pulling up turnips and haymaking. It made sense for the women to dress like men, but this made many people uneasy.Despite all these measures, by 1918 the situation was getting worse for most people. Food queues grew even longer.
Signs of malnutrition were beginning to appear among the poorest people. The rich, on the other hand, still had plenty to eat. Resentment of the rich was growing fast.
So to share the food round more fairly the government introduced compulsory rationing. Sugar was rationed from January 1918, and from April so were meat, butter, cheese and margarine. Everybody was issued with a ration card, and registered with a local butcher and grocer. Every person could have fifteen ounces of meat (425 grams), five ounces of bacon (142 grams) and four ounces of butter (113grams) or margarine per week.
Rationing worked. Queuing for food soon became a thing of the past. And historians agree that by the time rationing ended the health of the poorest people in Britain was actually better than it had been in peacetime – partly because rationing meant they got a better share of healthy food.The government tries a number of things to make sure food was used as and when it was needed only and nothing was wasted.
This is from a government leaflet published during the War. A crust of bread is speaking.”I am a slice of bread. 48,000,000 people of Britain waste me once a day. I am “the bit left over”; the slice eaten absent-mindedly when really wasn’t needed. I am the waste crust.If you collect my companions and me for a whole week you would find that we amount to 9380 tons (9530 tonnes) of good bread. WASTED! Nine shiploads of good bread! SAVE ME.
AND I WILL SAVE YOU!”Censorship and propagandaThe government regarded it as essential that civilians should support the war effort. So DORA also gave the government the right to control the newspapers and other mass media that might influence people’s view opinions towards the war. On many occasions the government even kept Parliament in the dark about event’s the front line.Good news onlyFrom the start of the war all news, especially bad news, was strictly controlled. Despite the problems of the first few months on the Western Front, the British people were told only of great British victories or heroic resistance.
For example, when the British battleships were sunk in October 1914, and it simply wasn’t reported.It was not until November 1916 that the government allowed journalists (and then only approved ones, of course) to be at the front. Reports focused on good news. The newspaper owners and editors themselves were keenest supporters of the war effort.The government also censored information from the soldiers at the front. The soldiers even censored themselves.
There is much evidence that soldiers home on leave chose not to tell relatives the truth about what was going on at the front because they did not want to worry them.Forced censorshipSome independent papers did publish more balanced news or even anti-war articles. Initially, they were tolerated. However, as the war dragged on papers like the pacifist newspaper “Tribunal” were closed down.
Censors monitored socialist newspapers such as the “Daily Herald” carefully.The censors were also concerned with stopping sensitive information from leaking out to the enemy. In 1916alone, the government Press Bureau and the Intelligence services examined 38,000 articles, 25,000 photographs and 3000,000private telegrams. Even magazines for railway enthusiasts found themselves in trouble for revealing too much about Britain’s transport network.Books and other publicationsLeading authors – HG Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling -all signed a Declaration by Authors in support of the war. Most of them produced dedicated publications for no fee. The history department at the University of Oxford produced a five-volume explanation of why Britain was justified to going to war (it became known as the Red Book because of it’s cover). The Red Book sold 50,000 copies.
Propaganda for childrenPropaganda was aimed at children too. Toys were made that weren’t intended to encourage support of the war effort, and there were many devoted books and comics. Needless to say, the German enemy was always cowardly and treacherous and the British Tommy was always modest, brave and successful. We know that these books and magazines sold well because they were regularly reprinted. In fact, many of them were still being reprinted in the 1920s and 1930s and given as school prizes.
FilmsThe government did not even have to make it’s own propaganda films.British filmmakers produced 240 war films between 1915 and 1918, very few of which were actually commissioned by the War Department.The British Topical Committee for War films was a group of film companies who got together to make and sell films to the War Department. Their patriotic film For the Empire reached an estimated audience of 9 million by the end of 1916.
The committee made some of the most famous films of the war, including The Battle of the Somme.Historians have generally seen The Battle of the Somme as a propaganda triumph. It showed real scenes from the battle, including real casualties (13 percent of it’s running time showed dead or wounded soldiers). It also included “fake” scenes the film did not tell its audience which was which.It was released in August 1916 and was a huge commercial success.
Many people talked of it as their first chance to see what conditions were really like in the war – to get closer to the truth. By October 1916 it had been shown in over 2000 cinemas (out of 4500 in the country). Some anti-war campaigners approved of the film because it showed the horrors more truly than any previous film. But some people were shocked by it’s realism. The Dean of Durham Cathedral thought that it was wrong to exploit death and suffering to provide entertainment.Did the propaganda work?It is very hard to measure how effective the propaganda was.
The ultimate test of the propaganda is whether it helped support for the war to stay firm.We look at numbers: 9 million people saw the film For the Empire. Over half the population read the Daily Express went up from 295,000 in 1814 to 579,000 in1918. The loyal weekly journal John Bull was selling 2million copies in 1918 and the News of the World was selling even more. These figures give the impression that what the government surrounded the ordinary citizen wanted them to hear and see.In many ways the government did not have to resort to extreme propaganda measures. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that most people mobilised themselves to support the war of their own accord. Many ordinary citizens joined dependable organisations such as the Fight for Right Movement, the Council of Loyal British Subjects or the Victoria League.
Role of WomenHow did the factories keep going?When war broke out industries such as textiles and dressmaking, which employed a lot of women, suffered because people no longer wanted to buy so many clothes. Many women lost their jobs. However, as more and more men went off to fight, somebody had to replace them in the factories and on the farms. Gradually, women began to take on men’s jobs. But this did not happen overnight.
In 1915 the government was faced with a serious shortage of shells and bullets. Many workers were needed, but of course the men were joining the army. Instead, the government would have to recruit as many women to work in factories as possible.
A march to publicise the campaign to recruit women was organized by David Lord George, who was minister in charge of munitions, and Mrs Pankhurst, the Suffragette leader. This was the first time the government had accepted that women could play a vital role in winning the War.The government drew up a register of women who were available for work. Over 100,000 registered, but only 5000 of them were given jobs, mainly because employers and male workers were prejudiced against having women working in industry.The trade unions as well were very suspicious of women coming into factories and doing men’s jobs.
They were worried that women would work for lower wages and so the men would lose their jobs for good. However, in 1915 the government and the unions came to an agreement. Women workers were to be paid the same as men, but women would only be allowed to take over men’s “for the duration of the War or till sufficient male labour should again be available”.Later in 1915 the army was so short of munitions that the government set up it own munitions factories, where there were no male employers or workers to sop women being employed.A turning point came when conscription (a law that forced all men between eighteen and forty-one to join the armed forces if they were needed), was introduced in 1916. At this point, many factory workers who had joined the army.
Before the War it had been assumed that women could only do light, indoor work which did not need much strength or skill. This was why so many women worked as domestic servants. These views were soon shown as domestic servants. These views were soon shown to be wrong. During the War women learned new skills within a much shorter time than he normal training period. In many jobs women performed better than the men they were replacing,Even though the conditions they worked were often tougher than they had been for men before the War.
ConclusionOn 11th November 1918 the war ended with the armistice being signed and Germany surrendering.Almost nine million died of whom nearly a million were from Britain and it’s Empire.When the British people heard the war was over they danced round Trafalgar Square and crowded outside Buckingham Palace singing and cheering.The soldiers went home to a heroes’ welcome. Over two million men, some healthy, some disabled and some wounded returned from the trenches.
Their lives, and lives of their families would never be the same again. Limited unemployment benefit and no National Health Service didn’t help the soldiers cause and life was very, very hard.The new government was forced to help and passed various reforms which meant that life for these men began to get better albeit slowly.
Who could have guessed that 21 years later Britain would be at war again!