July - August 1914
When war broke out in July 1914 Britain had an army of 350,000 men. By European standards, this was tiny, and Kaiser Wilhelm called it a "contemptibly little army". Lord Kitchener believed that to fight the Germans he would need at least 1,000,000 men.
The famous Lord Kitchener poster appeared on 7th August. The campaign was hugely successful. More than 500,000 men joined up in the first month alone and by 1916, over 2.5 million men had volunteered to join 'Kitchener's Army'.
- these came in many different styles. Some played to men's conscience, for example to poster that said "Daddy, what did you do in the Great War?". Some told the men that it would be exciting and some showed a picture of England and said "isn't this worth fighting for?".
- some were addressed to the women, instructing them to tell the men to go.
- many men were inspired to join up after seeing men march through the streets.
- wherever crowds were gathered, such as at football matches, people encouraged the fans to join up after the match. Whole football teams joined up, which encouraged the fans to join up too.
- groups of friends, orchestras, bus depots and football teams joined up, and many people joined up in order to be with their friends, or so that they didn't seem like cowards.
By 1916 the number of people being recruited per month was dropping drastically. Casualties had increased, and it was clear that the volunteers were not going to make up the losses.
In January 1916, the government introduced conscription for all single men between the ages of 18 and 41.
Three months later this was extended to include all married men. Between 1916 and 1918, one in three men had been conscripted into the army.
- viewed as fair - people shared the burden and the risk.
- the government could control which men in which occupations were called up
There were men who refused to fight, even after they had been conscripted. These people were called conscientious objectors.
Conscientious objectors had to convince a tribunal that their reasons were genuine and not cowardice. Then the tribunal could order one of four things to happen.
- the man's case was rejected. He had to go and fight at the Front
- he could be asked to take part in non-combatant service and the Front, such as nursing or ambulance driving.
- he could be asked to do essential war work in Britain, such as working in a munitions factory,
- the man's case was accepted totally, and he did not have to do anything to do with the War.
If he refused to do take orders after being sent to the Front, he could be shot. If he refused to do the work asked of him, he could be imprisoned or sent to a labour camp. Few people at the time had sympathy for conscientious objectors.
Organising Britain for War - Industry
the government took control of the coal industry so that it could be run for the benefit of the war effort. Profits were fixed and the Treasury took surplus. Miners were not conscripted as they were doing vital work. Wages were fixed across the country.
in 1915 there was a munitions crisis which became a national scandal. The munitions industry could not keep up with demand. So the government set up a Ministry of Munitions, with David Lloyd George in control. New munitions factories were built and the existing were controlled.
railways were needed to move troops around the country and to and from training camps. When the war started, the government took control of all the railways and ran them as one system.
in 1916 Lloyd George became Prime Minister. He set up a Ministry of Shipping. This requisitioned merchant ships and organised a convoy system to beat U-boats.
Organising Britain for War - Food
In 1914 Britain was dependent on foreign imports for food. 80% of wheat was imported. However, Britain's strong navy kept them well-supplied until 1916, when shortages began to occur. Lloyd George solved the problem in two ways:
- he began a campaign to persuade farmers to change their pastures into arable land. By 1918, an additional 3 million acres of arable land.
- he set up the Ministry of Food which:
- subsidised the price of bread so that everyone could afford it, even when there were shortages.
- introduced rationing, at first voluntary and later compulsory, which continued after the war.
- organised propaganda and posters with slogans such as "eat less bread".
- the government often used posters to convey messages, such as recruitment posters and food posters.
- newspaper censoring
- the press was not allowed to go the the front line
- the government gave the newspapers a summary of the events
- the government produced a set of postcards. They showed scenes of a man going home to his parents and telling them about the glory of fighting. They were all posed and soldiers laughed at them.
- letters home
- letters home were censored. They were censored so that no-one gave away locations of troops, and also for anti-war or pacifist talk.
- official films
- Britain produced propagandist films during the war. The most famous was called The Battle of the Somme. It was the first film that showed the truth at the front, even though most of it was filmed at a training school.