OCR History - Britain During WW1

The whole topic of Britain in WW1 for the British Depth Study, OCR History. Hope they help :) 

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The Start of WW1


  • WW1 started 4th August 1914.
  • Assumption = that it would be over by Christmas.
  • Wars were usually fought far away, by small, professional armies.
  • People didn't expect the war to be as bad as it was.
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How People Were Affected By War (1)


  • Lord Kitchener = secretary of state for war.
  • Only had 250,000 men - needed 1 million, led to a huge recruitment drive.
  • Types: Pals Battalions, politicans tour country, pamphlets, posters, offices.
  • Success - barracks were overflowing, 500,000 men after 1st month, 2.5 mil by March 1916.
  • Downside: families lose men, whole viallages lose men, men return physically and mentally scarred.


  • Fair as everyone shares burden of war - government control jobs.
  • Introduced Jan 1916, men needed to replace casualties. 
  • Men 18-41 years old.
  • Arpil 1916 = married men conscripted.
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How People Were Affected By War (2)

Concsientious Objectors 

  • Religious or humanitarian reasons against war/fighting.
  • Had to convince a tribunal that their reasons were genuine.
  • If they were genuine, the men were sent to drive ambulances, mine coal, or do forestry, or could be sent to labour camps.
  • If their reasons were found to be fake, they were put in the army anyway. If they refused orders, they were court-marshalled and shot at dawn.
  • No sympathy towards them - seen as cowards, treatly badly by authorities. 

Why Join the Army?

  • Duty and excitement.
  • Effective recruitment posters.
  • Escape dead end jobs.
  • Escape family/wives.
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Shells and Bombs (1)

Total War

  • Turkey and Palestine = the Eastern Front.
  • Belguim and France = the Western Front.

Shelling From Sea

  • December 1914
  • German battleships fired shells onto the north - east coast e.g. Whitby.
  • 119 men, women and children died.


  • January 1915
  • Dropped 27 tonnes of bombs onto east coast e.g. Great Yarmouth.
  • 564 killed, 1370 injured.
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Shells and Bombs (2)

Gotha and Giant Bombers

  • May 1917
  • Folkstone and London.
  • Deaths = 95 Folkstone, 162 London - 16 children. 
  • Total = 835 deaths, 1990 injuries.

What Did the Shells and Bombs Show?

  • Everyone was at risk.
  • Governement thought Germans were preparing to invade.
  • Government set up precautions - anti-aircraft guns, barrage balloons.
  • Sent instructions to commanders - actions to take in an invasion. 
  • When there was no invasion, the instructions were collected (still sealed) and destroyed.
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Organisation in War (1)


  • Defence of the Realm Act.
  • Controlled every spect of people's lives.
  • Government could by-pass parliament to make laws.


  • Government controlled mining.
  • Miners were not conscripted - they were important for the war effort.
  • The mining was run for the war effort.
  • All miners were paid the same. 


  • Daily Mail reveal munitions crisis on Western Front in 1915.
  • Government set up Ministry of Munitions led by David Lloyd George to deal with the crisis.
  • Set up new factories, use latest production methods.
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Organisation in War (2)


  • Set up as a single unified system.
  • Gave any profit to the governement.


  • Government took over ships for vital imports.
  • Railways sped up ship construction, 1916.
  • Convoy system - merchant ships sailed together, guarded by battleships, after German U boats sank 3.7 mil tonnes of shipping. 
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Organisation in War (3)

Food Production

  • 1914 = dependant on foreign food - 100% sugar, 50% fruit and veg, 80% wheat, 40% meat. Imports by sea - Britain could starve easily it is an island.
  • 1916 = shortages. 1917 = U boats sinking 25% of ships - Britain left with 9 weeks worth of wheat, 4 days worth of sugar. 
  • Prices rise - the rich hoard food, people can't afford bread, shops close easily as they run out of stock.
  • Problem solved by David Lloyd George:
    • Supply = committees persuaded farmers to turn pastures into arable land. 1918 = 3 mil acres of arable land brought into cultivation. Production rised by 1 mil tonnes, potato crop by 1.5 mil tonnes.
    • Demand = voluntary rationing, Royal Family reduce use of bread. Made compulsory in 1918, sugar (Nov 1920), butter (Early 1920), jam, marge and meat (Nov 1919). Price of bread subsidised - prices fell. Ninepenny loaf and 'Eat Less Bread' posters - bread bread was never rationed. 
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Business as Usual

Business as Usual 

  • Determined to win the war.
  • Morale kept high.
  • Want to carry on as normal.

Bad Attitude

  • Large gatherings = people a target to German bombers.
  • Get drunk = don't word as hard due to hangovers.
  • Working conditions = people go on strike, affects the soldiers.
  • Eat as much food as you want = food shortages, not enough to go around.
  • Could destroy the war effort.

David Lloyd George

  • Complains in speeches - bans boat races, bank holidays, football league, fireworks night, restricts pub opening times, denounces alcohol - the King gives it up. 
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Women at War (1)

Change in Duty

  • Show they can do men's jobs and could run home and family at same time.
  • Expected to return to domestic role when men return.
  • Jobs = police officers, house painters, drive trams, make shells, job assistants. 
  • Helps women to get the vote.

Supporting Men

  • Men's duty = fighting.
  • Role of women not clear - can volunteer, and support men by taking over businesses.
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Women at War (2)

Filling Gaps

  • 1915 = munitions, clothes and food needed. 
  • Male trade unionists against women working - no jobs for returning men, men's wages lowered, women hired for less.
  • Munitions crisis = women's work vital. Paid same as men, men can have jobs back upon return to keep trade unionist happy. 
  • 1914 = 5 mil women in jobs. 1918 = 6 mil women in jobs. Move out of domestic service and textiles as in less demand, move into munitions, banking, commerce and metal working. Also Land Army but only 16,000 join. Farms ran by women in rural areas. 

Recruiting Women

  • War longer than expected - rise in casualties.
  • Jobs = Land Army, drivers, nurses, cooks, mechanics. 
  • National Registration Act Certificate 1915 = men and women 16-65 register details, government see who is available for work.
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Running a Home and Family (1)


  • Balance work, the home and looking after children.
  • Motherhood = encouraged by newspapers at the end of the war:
    • National Council of Unmarried Mother and her Child.
    • National Baby Week, July 1917.
    • Mother's Day introduced 1916.


  • Price doubles - solutions = national kitchens, cheap restaurants, buy meals to take home.
  • Items scarce, e.g. marge, meat, potatoes, sugar, tea.

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Running a Home and Family (2)

Rent Strikes

  • Landlords increase rent as women are at work - women strike, e.g. Glasgow, Oct 1915 = 15,000 women in the city hall.
  • Rent Restriction Act = keeps rent at 1913 level.

Separation Allowance

  • Weekly sum to family and dependants of servicemen - if serviceman dies, becomes a pension.
  • Sum depended on rank of serviceman and number of children.
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Women's Freedom

More Freedom 

  • Smoke in public.
  • Manage their own budgets.
  • Shorten their skirts.
  • Have their own money
  • Go to restaurants and pubs themselves.


  • Magistrates
  • Churchmen
  • Authorities
  • Pubs in Hartlepool - refuse to serve women.

Regulation 40D

  • If a soldier/sailor gave a woman an STD = not persecuted.
  • If a woman gave a serviceman an STD = imprisoned.
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  • People lived with the fear of death.
  • 750,000 men killed, thousands more injured - mostly aged 18-25.
  • Tragedy to friends and family.
  • War Office notified next of kin by telegram or post if killed, missing or prisoner of war.
  • Increase in casualties = standard letters were used - if lucky, officer or fellow serviceman write a personal note - some men wrote their own notes.
  • No news was good news.
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Propaganda (1)

What and Why?

  • Limited, biased information.
  • Kept up morale, created a hatred of the enemy, encouraged support for war effort.
  • Control of information/censorship.


  • Where people got news in wartime - don't tell truth to avoid collapse of morale, mutiny, strikes and fall in recruitment.
  • Not allowed on the Front - government told them what to write - can't print bad news, no casualty lists until May 1915.
  • Language = 'noble sacrifice', 'fallen soldiers', death = 'wastage', shell shocked soldiers = 'broken heroes', heavy casualties = 'baptism of fire'.
  • Reality not shown, soldiers felt betrayed.
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Propaganda (2)

Posters, Postcards and Cartoons

  • Visual impact = tremendous before TV.
  • First years = 110 posters, 2-5 mil copies. Avoid explicit war descriptions on recruitment posters.
  • Postcards = 'Telling the Story'. Posed, laughed at by soldiers. 

Photographs, Paintings and Film

  • Photographers given officer status and access to the battlefield. France = 35, Germany = 50, Britain = 4. Can't photograph the dying/dead. 
  • War artists, appointed 1916. First were used for propaganda. Lord Beaverbrook took over for Minister of Information 1917, let artists work more freely.
  •  Films = propagandist political cartoons, persuaded people to contribute to war effort and mocked Germany. 'Battle of the Somme' film, used some real footage, but many scenes were staged.
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