History - Britain during the First World War

OCR history - British Depth Study

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Recruitment for War

Volunteers - When war broke out the British army was 250,000. They needed more men so the govt. began a recruitment drive. It set up recruitment offices in every town/city. It made posters/pamphlets to get people to join. So successful that there were too many men to equipment. A lot of enthusiasm. By the first month, 1 million joined. football teams and bus depots joined and were kept together in 'Pal's batallions'. BUT, families were deprived of husbands, dads. Many would never return and those that did would be mentally and physically scarred.

Conscription - As people realised war was not going to be over by Xmas, less joined. Casualties increased, dead/wounded had to be replaced. In January 1916, 1st conscription act was passed. It made it compulsory for single men between 18-41. 3 months later, married men also. It means the govt could control what jobs were being called up, so miners etc. were still working. 

Conscientious Objectors - for religious/humanitarian reasons did not want to killl another human being. They had to convince a tribunal that this was true. Once agreed, a tribunal would sentence the person to do non-combant services. If they were not accepted, they had to go to war.

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Why did men join?

  • Persuaded by posters/campaigns
  • wanted to get away from a dead-end job
  • wanted to get away from their families
  • some wanted a share in excitement
  • to wear uniform (part of something - sense of belonging)
  • patriotism
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Shells, Bombs, Threats of Invasion

Sea Shelling - December 1914, German battleships shelled towns along the NE coast of Britain. They shelled Scarborough, Whitby &Hartlepool, 119 M,W&C killed.

Zeppelins - January 1915, German airships bombed Britain. They are big, silver cigar-shaped air ships (200m long) and could carry 27 tonnes of bombs. They did 57 raids, killing 564 people, injuring 1370. 

Gotha and Giant Bombers - May 1917, German gotha bombers raided Folkestone killing 95. Then they bombed London, killing 162 people, 16 of them were children in school. They did 27 bombs on towns, 835 dead, 1990+ injuries.

  • The deaths by these actions showed no-one was safe. 
  • It made people fear that Germans were going to invade as the coastal town attacks were a surprise.
  • The government installed search lights, anti-aircraft guns and barrage balloons. So there were no surprises. 
  • Instructions sent to commanders on east coast. Threat over = instructions sent back.
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How was Britain organised for war? (1)

  • 8th August 1914, Defence Of Realm Act (DORA) passed which meant that the govt. to control people's lives. The govt. could order the seizure of land/buildings, take over industries for war economy, control public info.
  • Mining - took control of the industry to make sure it would benefit the war effort and not the coal owners. The profit was fixed, treasury took any surplus. Miners were not conscripted because they were doing vital work. Miners were all paid the same due to National wage agreements. 
  • Munitions - 1915, Daily Mail exposed a munitions crisis which became a national scandal. There was a shortage of shells, bullets and guns on the W Front. Govt. set up the 'Ministry of Munitions' under the control of DLG to increase arms production. State controlled 20,000 + munition factories and those who worked in them.
  • Railways - needed to move troops around the country, to and from training camps and to ports to be taken to war. The govt. took control of the railways and ran them as a single,unified system. Guaranteed same 1913 profit level
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How was Britain organised for war? (2)

Shipping - 1916, DLG set up 'Ministry of Shipping'.  They demanded merchant ships for vital imports, co-ordinated the activities of docks and railways and increased the rate of construction. After German boats sank our ships, merchant ships were accompanied by battleships in 1917. 


  • By 1913, Britain was depended on foreign food, 40% meat, 80% wheat, 50% milk. Due to the boats being sunk , by April 1917, Britain had 9 weeks supply of wheat and 4 days supply of sugar.
  • Less food, more price. Poor could only afford basic food. Shops closed in the afternoon- no food. How was it tackled?
  • Supply = local communities set up to turn pasture farm land into arable.
  • - By 1918, 3 million acres of arable land brought a 1 million tonne increase of wheat. Potato by 1.5 million tonnes.
  • Demand = bread price fell, '9 penny loaf' - subsidised price.
  • - local food committees which made voluntary rationing. 
  • - compulsory rationing- meat, butter, jam, margarine rationed. 
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Women at War

Supporting the Men

  • Duty of women was to support the war effort and encourage me to volunteer for the army and they also should run family businesses while the men were away fighting.
  • Trade unionists did not want women to work because they thought that because women were paid less, when the men returned, bosses would pay the men the same 'women wage' or they would just keep the women. 
  • Government made an agreement with unionists that men would be paid the same and would have their jobs back when they came back from war.
  • In July 1914, 5 million women were employed, end of war : 6 million.
  • Many women working in hard labour such as metal-work, banking, munition.
  • Women's Land Army - 16,000 women who made sure enough food was being made.
  • As casualties rose, women encouraged to work full-time. Govt. encouraged women to join the Women's Land Army or join the army as nurses, cooks etc. 
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Running Home and Family

Food Problems : Food prices doubled over war-time. Cheap Restaurants and national kitchens were women could buy hot meal and take them home to eat.

Rent Strikes : Landlords raised rent to get money of more new worked, women held demonstrations against this and took part in rent strikes, this began to spread. Govt made the Rent Restriction Act so usual 1913 rent amount.

Separation Allowances : Government paid a weekly sum to the wives of servicemen. If they died, this became pension. The amount depended on the rank of the man and how many children he had.

Motherhood : 1916 : Mother's day was introduced. National Baby Week in July 1917 and 1918. The National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child was found - attitude toward illegitimacy was changing. 

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Social Freedom & Death

  • Women were more financially independent, single women had their own money and the married ones had enough to manage household budgets.
  • Women began shortening their skirts, going to pubs/restaurants by themselves, smoking in public.
  • Frowned upon by magistrates, churchmen and a lot of other people.
  • Pubs in Hartlepool refused to serve women.
  • The spread of STDS among soldiers and sailors. Many towns tried to put a curfew on women of a 'certain sort' from 7pm to 8 am. 
  • Govt. issued Regulation 40D which basically said that if a serviceman gave a woman an STD, it was fine, other way round, she was imprisoned. 


  • Nearly 750,000 died, 1000s more injured.
  • Most men who died were between the ages of 18-25.
  • War office told the families if they had gone missing, been killed or taken as a prisoner of war by telegram or ordinary post.
  • The family were lucky if they got a personal note from officer or friend.
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How effective was Government Propaganda during the

  • Propaganda is limited, often biased information used for a certain purpose.
  • Purpose in War-Time : support the war effort, keep up morale, create hatred and suspicion of the enemy.
  • Newspaper role was crucial as it was the public source of info.
  • At the start of war, newspaper correspondents were not allowed on the front. Govt. gave the media a summary of what was happening. 
  • Early, the British did not report bad news of the war. No casualties listen until May 1915. Specific language was used to keep morale high.
  • Problem was, although morale was being kept high, soldiers knew it was lies. 
  • A rift was created between what people at home thought it was like and what it was actually like.
  • Due to this, many soldiers could not talk about what happened. They felt betrayed and abandoned  by the people at home who believed the media.
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How effective was Government Propaganda during the

Posters, Postcards and Cartoons

  • Visual impact was good. Govt used this to the full. In the first year, 2-5 million copies of 110 different posters were made. Most for recruitment and none said bad things about the war.
  • Later, they were aimed at combating war-weariness by talking about the bad deeds of the enemy and the heroic British.
  • They made official postcards called, 'Telling the Story'. All photographs were posed and laughed at by soldiers.

Official Photographs and Paintings

  • Professional photographers given access to the battlefields. First official war artists appointed in 1916 and they captured a record of the war.

Official Films 

  • Shown in cinemas across Britain. Mocked the Germans, praised British. The battle of Somme began on 1st July 1916 until November. Footage was shown in August 1916, before war was over showing that they must have short some bits at a training school.
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Nav Mallhi

Thanks! This is really good

Miss E

This excellent presentation deals with all of the major areas for this topic, including the role of women and how the government dealt with the crisis. This would be a good place to take information from and revise it in a variety of ways.


it was really good however I noticed that in many women left there jobs and were banished from work can someone explains it to me 

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