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Liberals and the War.
· Based on the idea of laissez faire, the initial reaction of the Liberal government was to do
very little different in terms of leading Britain in the war.
· Essentially the govt. believed in non interference, and allowing people to continue as
· Free Trade it was believed would be enough
· Plus it was felt the existing structure of govt would be sufficient to achieve victory only
Lord Kitchener was appointed to the cabinet, being made Secretary of State for War.
· Shipping, munitions, and coal remained out of govt control.
· Only the railways were immediately brought under govt control in Aug 1914.
· Unfortunately it soon became apparent that limited govt action was not going to be enough.
· Kitchener's limitations were becoming very clear. Criticism was mounting in the press and
Ll G was publicly clashing with Kitchener.
· This became clear in May 1915 with the so called `munitions crisis'.
The Munitions Crisis:
· In May 1915 the Times wrote an article claiming that British troops were unable to make
headway because they were being left short of shells to fire.
· This scandal was only added to the next day when Sir John Fisher (First Sea Lord) resigned
after falling out with Churchill over the Gallipoli campaign.
· To avoid a total political crisis Asquith formed a coalition govt which included a large number
· Balfour replaced Churchill at the Admiralty, Bonar Law became Colonial Secretary, and
Lloyd George took over at the Ministry of Munitions after threatening to resign. This Ministry
was independent of the War Office.
· Historians have argued that the new coalition "opened up a new political situation" for Ll G
· It is also claimed that Ll G used his new position to promote himself as an alternative War
· His position was strengthened in July 1916 when Kitchener died and Ll G became Minister
Lloyd George at fault?
Lloyd George as Munitions Minister:
· Ll G took over his base at Whitehall with 2 assistants in an office with one table and 2
chairs. Within 2 years his staff was up to 12,000. By the end of the war it reached
65,000with 3 million workers under their control.
· Winston Churchill said "The whole island was an arsenal".
· Ll G decided to include outsiders in his ministry men he described with `push and go'. Ie
Sir Eric Geddes (railway magnate) and Sir George Booth (shipowner).
· By the end of 1915 the dept had built 60 factories an commandeered 750 workshops,
laboratories, and supply depots.
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The weekly reports it demanded estimated that that shell production increased from 70,000
per month in May to 120,000 in September, to 238,000 in January 1916.
· Ll G was obviously a success, and certainly knew the weaknesses that Kitchener allowed.
· Ll G recognised the effectiveness of the machine gun and told Geddes (on the issue of
production) take Kitchener's maximum, square it and multiply that by two and when you are
in sight of that double it again for good luck.…read more
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As soon as he was Prime Minister Ll G began to run the war as a dictatorship. Historian
K.O. Morgan said "Ll G's war premiership was without parallel in British history. No previous
Pm has ever exercised power in so sweeping and dominating manner".
· There are 2 views:
· either he was a great war time leader that was exactly what was needed at the time
· removed all vesitages of democracy and the British constitution.…read more
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yet it was `business
as usual' in the high street.
· Having taken shipping of the Admiralty he was able to get more ships built (by 1918 3
million tons a year).
· It also recommended the introduction of the convoy system.
Did it work?:
· It took 2 months to wear down Jellicoe but by December 1917 the loss of shipping was
reduced to 170,000 tons that month (compared to 300,000 tons the previous february)
· On Xmas Eve Jellicoe was sacked.…read more