History WW1

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What were the causes of the war

- If France were to be defeated Germany would accomplish European domination that would cause Britain to suffer

- Germany possesed the strongest army in Europe

- Germany declared war on Russia and then on France, Russias ally.

-  Germans had the schlieffen plan which was that they would first march through neutral belgium. this led to britain getting involved. Britain had a treaty of 1839 which she had guaranteed Belgiums neutrality. on 4th August Britain declared war on Germany.

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Battle of Ypres

  • 80,000 men, 30,000 horses and 315 guns were dispatched to France. this became known BEF.
  • German commander in chief ordered his armies to pull into a defensive line
  • The BEF began to advance after the retreating Germans.
  • many Germans troops were composed of enthusiastic students. many died.
  • the BEF lost 50,000 casualties
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second battle of ypres

  • The BEF had 245,917 men in 1914
  • despite this they were still junior to the French throughout 1915
  • poisonus gas added to a new way of dying.
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Problems facing the British

  • New commander in chief - sir Douglas Haig was appointed for the BEF.


  • Haig commanded 5 armies each composed of hundreds and thousands of men.

Defeating the Germans:

  • smokeless powder, machine guns
  • By the end of 1915 the germans had constructed complecated trench forts.
  • normal shrapnel shells could not break through barbed wire- so fuse 106 was invented.
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The Battle of the Somme

  • to relieve pressure on the French at Verdun

The first day:

  • one and a half million shells fired, but a million were shrapnel so not effective.
  • 57,000 casaulties and over 19,000 died.


  • they learned new tactics and tricks
  • tanks - creeping barrage
  • war of attrition
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The battle of Arras

  • the British gained four miles of territiory but failed to break through german lines
  • battle went on for too long with lots of losses.

the germans held higher ground curving around in an arc. an advance of 7 miles would push them of the ridge and threaten their control of the railways.

  • there was a massive artillery bombardment involving 3 and a half million shells.
  • but the weather intervened as it started to rain which ruined the plans.
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  • The weather improved in september.
  • haig determined to press on but the weather deteriorated again.
  • the British advanced 7 miles and both sides had lost 260,000 casaulties
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1918 - year of crises and victory

  • in 1918 the German commander - Ludendorff decided that the Germans should go on the offensive.
  • due to the Bolsheviks revolution of 1917 the germans were able ot transfer fresh troops to the western front.
  • as a result of the Unrestricted Submarine campaign USA had declared war on Germany.

Unrestricted Submarine Warfare: is a german strategy of abandoning the accepted rules of trade war. this had involved stopping a merchant ship. the germans had decided to sink ships on sight. this caused USA to join.

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The allied counter offensive

by 1918 Haig commanded a highly skilled army.

he had artillery in sufficient quantity and tanks.

18000 germans taken prisioners and 6000 killed

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British organisation.


  •  there were 4 types of Britsh soldiers. the regualrs dispatched in 1914, the territorials (1915) volunteers.


  • Lee enfield rifle - basic weapon introduced in 1903, it could fire 15 rounds.
  • Vickers machine gun - in 1912, fires 450-550 rounds
  • lewis gun - the light machine gun developed in the USA.
  • Stokes Mortar -
  • Grenades and shells - the great killer,feard by germans.
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Morale and discipline

Post and leave:

  •  the arrangement of postal and parcel deliveries were outstanding. men could keep in touch with their families.
  •  letters home were censored but contact was speedy.
  •  125000 letters a day were being handled.
  •  in summer there were 100,000 soldiers who had not been home for 18 months

food was another key ingerdient in maintaining morale, as they were fed well and as many came from poor families they recieved more food then they did at home.

tobacco was cheap and widely available .

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was not generous but the british tommy was paid better then the French Poilu and better of then they were at home.

  • lowest rate was 5p (one shilling)
  • food and clothing was free and payements were made to dependants at home.
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life behind the lines

  • soldiers kept rotating from the front line to the billet (behind the battle zone)
  • no units spent more than an average of 8 days in the units and 2 days on the firing lines


  • warm food
  • baths
  • morale boosting programmes
  • cinemas
  • entertainment and diversions  - concerts
  • football matches
  • competition
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Field punishment

  • death penalty - there were 5700000 men in the army 346 of which were executed 
  • flogging had been abolished and replaced by field punishment number one 
  • field punishment number one - being tied to a stationary object (gun wheel) for two hours straight.
  • loss of pay 
  • however morale remained high 
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health and medical service

  • more men died from action then from disease 


  • diggin and positioning of latrines were crucial.
  • the lessons from public health in Britain were applied 


  • they affected all men 
  • they were impossible to remove 
  • they caused irritaion and trench fever with recurring flu like symptoms 
  • delousing stations were established 

Trench foot 

  • Caused by standing in the cold mud and water combined with tightly laced boots which restricted circulation.
  • symptoms were swelling and gangrene 
  • whale oil was issued to rub into feet 
  • men took with them dry socks
  • it was reduced but never eliminated 
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How were the wounded treated:

  • the treatment was in the hands of the Royal army medical corp numbering from 1,509 officers .
  • there was a shortage of doctors 
  • volunteers were taken from the USA 
  • there was one hospital ship and train 
  • field dressing stations 
  • base hospitals 
  • morphine tablets were used 
  • inoculation was used against typhoid which was the great killer of the boer war
  • rtificial limbs were improved and became widely available 
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Lord kitchener

  • the secretary of state for war 
  • he combanded the british in the boer war - hero in the eyes of the public
  • he was 64 and he was no politician 
  • he predicted the war would last 3 years ad that he neede 1 million fighting men 
  • the first 100,000 men had enlisted by 25th august 
  • over half a million men had enlisted 
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Pals battalions

  • pals battalians formed on the basis of those who joined together should serve together. popular move.
  • Battalion = a large group of troops
  • Hull raised 4 battalions
  • Glasgow 3 battalions 
  • over 300 battalions raised 
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why did men volunteer

  • there was hope and optimism 
  • volunteering means on choosing to by your free will 
  • however Nestle company announced that it expected all male employees to 'volunteer' 

Derby scheme:

over 1 million had volunteered to fight by the end of 1914. 2.5 men had enlisted voluntarily

however morale faded and volunteering recruitment wouldnt provide enough men to fight.

on July 1915 the National Registration act was passed by parliament to stimulate recruitment by discovering how many men there was between 15 and 60 and the occupations they ha.

those in this age range were obliged to register

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in January 1916 all volunteer enlistment was stopped 

in January 1916 the Military service act was passed --> men were conscripted by force - so they were not given a choice on which regiment or unit they joined.

in 1916 may the act was extended to include all married men. the only acceptions were those in reserved occupations or conscientious objectors.

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Those who opposed the war

the No conscription fellowship 

clifford allen and Fenner brockway formed the NCF  

theis was dedicated to those who object to fighting  they became know as 'conscientious objectors'

reasons why they objected:

  • they are young 
  • life is precious to them 
  • they want to achieve something and have great opportunities for an adventure 
  • free right 
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How were conscientious objectors treated

  • sent to France and if they disobeyed sentenced to death 
  • the pelham comitee set up in June 1916 which offered work such as road building to those who had been imprisoned 
  • they could serve in non combatant corps - driving ambulances 
  • Absolutists - were imprisoned 
  • there were around 16,500 conscientious objectors 

3300 served in non combatant 

3000 did forms of ambulance work 

4000 accepted work from pelham comitee

1500 absolutists were imprisoned 

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peoples reaction to conscientious objectors

the people who supported them were named 'conchies'

they were handed white feather to symbolise cowardice 

government propaganda supported this.


there were new opportunities for women 


florence nightingale had set up a precedent for womens involvement 

the army service established in 1884

there was only 700 trained nurses and this number increases to 23000

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since 1910 nurses had been supplemented by the war office scheme for volunteering aid detachment (VADS). 

They were voluntary therefore unpaid. therefore the nurses had to be financially self sufficient.


the first aid nursing yeomanry founded in 1907 

upper class women there was only 116 working in france 

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in Jan 1917 government announced the formation of the Womens Auxilary army corps. these women undertook a variety of army work. clerks, telephonists, cooks and instructors in the use of gas masks.

over 57000 women had seved in the WAAC 

womens royal Naval service (1917)  aim was to release men from administratvie duties so they could go to sea. (same aim as WAACS)

over 2000 women were trained in 43 trades e.g radio operators, instrument mechanics

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role of the government

In 1914 governmetn set up his own Propaganda Bureau - it was a secret many MPs didnt know it existed. didnt have departments in control so was chaotic.

it was only in 1917 because of war weariness that David lloyd George set up the Department of information.

war weariness - loss in morale 

governement agancies and departments were established .

government allowed propaganda to run on its own for the first year. 

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war correspondents

war correspondents were regarded as a nuisance. 

they were not allowed on the front line  those who got caught were killed or arrested.  Swinten: his report were reffered to as the eyewitness account.  public complained about inaccurate information 

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Horatio Bottomley:

published the John bull publication 

sold 1- 2 million copies 

this influenced german attitudes 

Myths and rumours:

many romours were spread by the word of mouth 

the angel of mons - many people believed it , this was when an angelic figure appeared

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The times newspapers article said 

the germans turn "fat into lubricating oil" and bones are used for pig food and manure 


the battle of the somme film - had made £30,000 profit, on the first two months of its release there were 2000 bookings.


the only Germans the British met face to face with was the prisoners 

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The defence of the Realm act 1914

How the workfore was managed 

The munitions of war act 1915: 

  • Strikes were prohibited 
  • dilutions took place (unskilled workers took on the role of skilled people) this was a problem as the Workers unions didnt agree as when the workers came back fromthe war they were not given there job back since employers were paying unskilled people less money.
  • no worker could leave without a 'Certificate of discharge'
  • no worker could refuse overtime even if it was unpaid

How was the mining  industry managed 

  • factories had to focus on supplying for the war (total war)
  •  the coal strike 1915 - most industries were powered by coal 
  • all mines were privately owned 
  • welsh miners wanted a permanent pay increase rather than temporary war bonus
  • many strikes and government agreed to all miners demands
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Transport industry management 


  • passed into the control of the government
  • free transport for troops 


  • The merchant machine was essential for total war 
  • A canal company was set up in march 1917 and was responsible for all inland waterways and was not owned or run by railway companies
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How were women involved


  • they fullfilled a number of functions:

- Booking clerks 

-telephone operators 

-Char women 


  • 12423 women employed which rose to 65,000


  • women faced a lot of male opposition 
  • The tramway workers's resolution of may 1915 stated women were"dangerous" and "unwise"
  • only in feb 1916 that bus company hired women 
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Agricultural Industry

  • Initially little government involvement as they thoought the war would be over by christmas 
  • in 1917 lord Rhonda was minister of food and food supply was brought under control 
  • rationing system was introduced 
  • bacon, butter, margarine,sugar, meat and tea were rationed
  • Bread was never rationed but the price increased by twice its price in 1914
  • Aim was to boost production of wheat, barley and potatoes.
  • Board of agriculture ensured that land was well cultivated 
  • a wages board established to ensure farmers paid male workers minimum wage 
  • in Jan 1917 womens land army was founded with the aim of replacing men lost to agriculture and providing permanent skilled and mobile female labour force for work on farms 
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The demon drink

before 1914 to sell alcohol you needed a license and it had to have a set closing time. 5am -12pm

men and women could drink how much they wanted.

drunkness was common 


the Intoxicating liquor act on 31 august 1914 gave authorities the power to restrict opening hours

DORA was used to restrict the sell of alcohol

The price of alcohol had risen by 500 percent 

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impact of the WW1


  • many people killed -out of 6,146,574 soldiers 722,785 were killed 11.8%
  • infant mortality fell
  • life expectancy rose
  • better maternity care
  • more work and better pay 


  • millions of tons of shipping sunk
  • overseas investments sold off
  • losses of £1billion 
  • production of coal and cotton didnt recover
  • new industries e.g. aircraft manufacture
  • new steel plants established. too much by the 1920s 
  • shipping loss rapidly rebuilt - excess in 1920s 
  • Britain gained by the falling price of goods imported 
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  • rationing encouraged habit of queuing 
  • british summer time introduced
  • alcohol consumption decreased
  • cigarettes were more popular


  • Taxes increased 
  • consumption of drugs and cigarettes increased
  • Labour party entered government 
  • women over 30 allowed to vote(1918)
  • increased amount of voters
  • liberals were the poorest of the 3 parties
  • conservatives gained most votes
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