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British depth study 1906 1918
When the war started, Britain only had a small professional army but it needed to have a large one very quickly. The government had a massive recruitment campaign with
propaganda and recruitment offices in every town. There was already a strong anti-German feeling in the country but the press strengthened the dislike with bad stories about
the Germans. The campaign was very successful and half a million signed up in the first month. By 1916 over 2 million had been enlisted
In 1916, conscription was introduced, all men aged 18-40 had to register for active service. They did this because the number of volunteers was falling. Recruitment in December
1915 was the lowest of any months since the start of the war. But the demand for troops was growing because the dead and wounded needed replacing. Britain's agriculture and
industry was failing because miners and farmers were going to fight so they needed to be called back so people needed to replace them. Volunteering was also seen as unfair
because not everyone was putting equal amounts of work into the war, the whole country should be a part of it. Also many of the strongest and fittest men were not
volunteering and with conscription it would mean that every type of person would fight
Opposition to Conscription
Some people opposed conscription. Fifty MPs, including leading Liberals, voted against it in Parliament. They opposed it because they felt it was the workers fighting the
upper-class war. Another group were the pacifists or conscientious objectors who opposed the war for religious or political reasons. They had to appear before a tribunal to
prove that htye had a genuine reason for objecting to the war and were not just cowards. Some of these were sentenced to death but this turned into a life sentence of hard
labour. Others went to the front line to work in field hospitals or as stretcher bearers.
DORA: Defence of the Realm Act
In 1914 the government passed DORA. It gave the government the ability to control the lives on people's daily lives
They could seize any land or buildings and take over any industries which were important to the war effort
All bad news was strictly controlled. The people were only told of the British victories and none of their failures.
They censored information from soldiers at the front and they even censored themselves because they didn't want the people back home to worry
Newspapers against the war were closed down, like the pacifist newspaper Tribunal. Socialist newspapers were closely monitored
Authors had to sign a Declaration by Authors in support of the war. Most authors produced patriotic publications for no fee. The history department and Oxford University
produced a five volume explanation of why Britain was justified in going to war, this sold 50,000 copies
Propaganda was made for children such a toys, books and comics which supported the war effort
240 war films were produced between 1915 and 191
Did the propaganda work?
9 million people saw the film For the Empire
Over half the population read a daily newspaper and newspaper circulation increased during the war
The circulation of the Daily Express went from 295,000 in 1914 to 579,000 in 1918
The patriotic journal John Ball was selling 2 million copies in 1918 and News of the World was selling even more
These figures suggest that propaganda was a success
The munitions crisis
In 1915 the first major problems began to emerge for the government.
o There was a chronic shortage of shells, bullets and armaments on the Western Front.
o New soldiers had to train with wooden sticks instead of rifles as there were not enough rifles to go round.
o There were reports that soldiers in the front lines were rationed to three rounds of ammunition a day.
o The artillery were unable to keep up their barrage of enemy trenches because of the shortage of shells.
o The munitions crisis became a national scandal exposed by the Daily Mail, which was Britain's highest-circulation newspaper.
o As a result of these problems, a coalition government was established so all parties could work together to support the war effort. Lloyd George was made Minister of
Under DORA, Lloyd George introduced a range of measures to deliver the goods.
o One problem was the shortage of skilled workers in key industries.
o Lloyd George tried to force skilled workers to stay where the government needed them instead of going to where they could get the best pay.
o Trade unions protested. Many of the bosses of the firms supplying the government were making huge profits out of the war, so the unions wondered why workers could
not do so as well.
One other key element of Lloyd George's programme was to bring the women into the workforce. Trade unions resisted this as well.
o In 1915, 100,000 women registered for working in industry, yet to start with only 5,000 were given jobs. Trade unions were worried about the effect of women workers on
their members' wages. They argued that women worked for lower pay than men, so they diluted men's wages.
o They refused to co-operate until the government gave a clear promise that women would be paid the same as men and would not be kept on when the men came back.
Lloyd George gave them this responsibility.
o He also opened the government's own munitions factories, which employed a large number of women.
o By the end of 1915 the situation had improved. The British army was well supplied with munitions for the rest of the war.
Feeding the Country
The government also need to ensure that Britain was fed.
o Under DORA it was able to take over land and turn it over to farm production.
o In February 1917 it set up the Woman's Land Army to recruit women as farm workers.
The food supply in Britain had become quite desperate.
o In April 1917 German U-boats were sinking one in every four British merchant ships.
o Britain had only six weeks' supply of wheat left.
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o As food supplies ran short, prices rose.
o Wages had hardly risen during the war because people were mostly prepared to sacrifice better pay to support the war effort, but prices were now almost double what
they had been in 1914.
o Richer people bought more than they needed and hoarded it. Poorer people could not even afford basic supplies such as bread.
o Shops closed early each afternoon as they had run out of goods to sell.…read more