How were civilians affected by WWI?

British Depth Study - Britain during the First World War

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  • Created by: Tiula
  • Created on: 14-06-10 10:19


  • when war broke out in 1914, Britain had a tiny army
  • Lord Kitchener said that they would need an army of 1 million men
  • A huge recruitment drive was started
    • posters
    • pamphlets
    • stirring, patriotic speeches
  • huge success - 500,000 men joined up in the first month
  • by March 1916, 2.5 million men had volunteered
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Why was conscription introduced?

  • it became clear that the war would not be over soon
  • casualties were mounting
  • volunteer numbers were dropping - people were returning home with horrific tales
  • volunteers were not going to make up the losses


  • January 1916, conscription was introduced for all unmarried men 18-41
  • March 1916, this was extended to all married men too

Public attitudes to conscription

  • fair
  • people shared the burdens and risks
  • better, as the government could control which men in which occupations were called up
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Conscientious Objectors

Many men refused to participate in the war as they did not want to kill other humans. If they refused to be conscripted they faced a tribunal where they had to persuade a court that it was not cowardice.

The court could rule in one of three ways:

  • the man's case was rejected. He had to fight.
  • he could take part in non-combatant service at the front (e.g. stretcher bearing)
  • he could do essential war work in Britain

If a man refused to do A, he could be shot. If he refused to do B or C, he could be sent to a labour camp, where some died and many went mad.

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Threats on the Home Front

  • shelling from the sea
    • in December 1914, German battleships shelled Scarborough, Whitby, and Hartlepool, killing 119.
  • zeppelins
    • zeppelins made a total of 57 raids on British towns
  • gotha and giant bombers
    • Germans made 27 bomber raids, causing 835 deaths
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