Britain in the War

britain in the first world war and how women contributed to the war.

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britain in the war

volunteers- only need people who volunteer as they didnt think the war would go on for too long. posters urged young men to join but they were not forced to many men volunteered 500,000 men in the first month. by march 1916 over 2.5 million men volunteered to join.Lord Kitcheners army.

the were downsides of this recruiting campaign- families deprived of husbands, fathers and sons. all young men lost

  • conscription- war not going to be over by Christmas
  • casualties increased
  • 1916 gov passed first conscription act- all single men between 18 and 41 had to fight.this soon included married men 3 months later

conscientious objectors (conchies)- many people hated the idea that people would kil other people. they would have to work in mining or drive ambulances etc... men who refused to do anything tot do wuith the war would be sent to labour camps or prison.

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shells, bombs and threats of invasion-

  • shelling from the sea-december 1914, german battleships shelled towns. 119 people killed. they shelled the north east coast of britain- scarborough, witby and hartlepool.
  • zepplins-jan 1915 german airships began bombing raids on britain. made 57 raids overall killing 564 people and injuring 1370
  • gotha and giant bombers-may 1917 german bombed london(162 died), folkstone(95 died) and many people died. 27 bomber raids causing 835 deaths.
  • made people feel fear.
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how was britain organised for the war?

1914- Defence of the Realm Acts DORA

gave the government power to control every aspect of people's lives.

they controlled:-

  • mining- miners stayed put to keep the industry going. every miner was paid the same and they did not have to fight.
  • munitions- 1915 the daily mail exposed the munitions crisis- shortage of shells and bullets... so they gov set up ministry of munitions led by Llyode George. the state controlled the industry, set wages and pricesand controlled over 20,000 munitions factories.
  • railways- ran as single unified system and needed to move troops...
  • shipping- llyod george set up minstry of shipping in 1916. u-boats sank 3.7 million tonnes of shipping in spring 1917 so the ministry of shipping inposed a convoy system where merchant ships sailed together accompanied by battleships.
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controlling food production and distribution

middle 1916 huge food shortages v serious! 1917 country became desperate as U-boats were sinking ships and by april britain only had nine weeks of supply of wheat and four days supply of sugar. prices then rose and rich ppl bought more than they needed and poor couldnt even afford bread. so llyod george did:


  • persuaded farmers to turn their land to arable land
  • by 1918 3 million acres of arable land had been brought into cultivation, wheat production and potatoes rose hugely.
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demand: a ministry of food was set up with-

  • nine penny loaf so eveyone could afford bread
  • the gov tried to encourage people to eat less bread
  • bread never rationed
  • local food commitees set up voluntary food rationing and the Royal Family started it by saying they would reduse the amount of bread they ate.
  • 1918 compulsory rationing of sugar, meat, butter, jam and margerine.

Bussiness as usual?

people were determined to carry on as usual in the early years after the war. the saying 'bussiness as usaul' meant carry on eating the same amount, going on strike, getting drunk and this had the potential to destroy the war effort.

  • llyod george resticted pub opening hours
  • bank holidays, guy fawks night, the footbal league, boat race- all cancelled
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women showed they could replace men when they were fighting. the work women did during the war helped them to get the vote.

supporting the men:

  • duty of men-volunteer to fight
  • duty of women-not clear, 1st they had to support the men and encourage men to fight.

filling the gaps:

  • summer 1915 this was not enough
  • industies were short of workers, especially in muntions. women were recruited to fill in the gaps.
  • some workers didnt want to see women taking their jobs by working for less and longer hours but women were still employed.
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  • gov promised to protect mens jobs and wages and when they returned from fighting they could get their jobs back.
  • women were paid the same as men
  • july 1914 5 million women employed by end of war over 6 million.
  • Womand Land Army ensured that enough food was produced but only 16,000 women joined. most work done on farms was by women anyway.

recruiting women

  • as war went on casualies grew and women were encouraged to work full time.
  • there was persuasion to join Womens Land Army and joined the armed services and bacome nurses, cooks, mechanics and drivers. women would do any job which was needed to be done.
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running home and family:

  • food problems-basic food doubled in price and women could not do a full days work and then go and have to spend ages shopping for food...
  • so the gove set up cheap restaurants and a sting of national kitchens where hot meals could be bought and taken home to families.
  • rent stikes- rents were put up so women went on rent strikes. they would refuse to pay so th gov set up the Rent Restriction Act in 1915 which kept the rents the same as in 1913.
  • separation allowances-people who were married to sodiers or dependant on them were paid a weekly sum by the gov. if the man was killed it turned into a pension. depended on the number of children and the rank of the serviceman.
  • motherhood- this was encouraged in newspapers, magazines. 1916 mothers' day. the National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child was founded- attitudes towards illegitimacy were changing.
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  • women were more financially independant during the war
  • single women had money
  • women shortened their skirts and started to smoke in public- this was deproved by some
  • some towns tried to give certain women a curfew between 7pm to 8am because STDs became common in soldiers
  • a law came out that if a women gave a serviceman an STD they would go to prison but if it was the other way a man would not be prosecuted!
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newspaper reports:

  • newspapers couldnt print the absolute truth as it would ruin the country's morale and a collapse in recruitment but if it didnt print the truth then people could not make an accurate assesment of the events.
  • in the early stages of war only the good things about war would be printed and casualities wee not printed until may 1915.
  • specific language was used to keep morale high:
  • a baptism of fire- heavy casualties
  • rectification of the line- a retreat
  • broken heroes- shell-shocked soldiers
  • wastage-death
  • soldiers felt betrayed and abandoned by the people at home who believed the lies in the press.
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  • the visual impact was huge, people respond to these.
  • 110 different posters were issued in the first yr of the war
  • most targetted at recruitment
  • magazines like PUNCH helped to show hatred to the germans and helped the british pulic unite against thier enemy.


  • proffessional officers were able to take photos on battlefields and were given officer status. britain had 4 and other countries had many more.
  • not allowed to photograph the dead and dying.
  • first war artist appointed in 1916


  • many cartoons were made as proaganda and shown in cinemas across britain.
  • they aimed to persuade people to contribute to the war effort
  • mocked germans
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Notes are very useful, so thanks.

There are a few spelling errors and text typing which does make it quite hard to read though.

Nav Mallhi


Thank you!

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