The British Home Front during the First World War



  • August 1914- Britain declared war on Germany
  • involved millions of fighting men and many families were involved
  • the violence of war was brought to mainland Britain
  • shelling, zeppelins, Gotha and Giant bombers 
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How were civilians affected by the war?


  • massive recruitment drive (propaganda etc)
  • 500,000 signed up within the first month
  • families deprived of their sons/brothers/fathers/husbands
  • many never returned


  • casualties increased- replacements were required
  • compulsory for 18-41 year olds who were single to join and then married men
  • 1/3 men were conscripted
  • vital work e.g. mining could still be conducted efficiently

Conscientious Objectors:

  • convince tribunal- reasons genuine and not cowardice
  • ordered to drive ambulances etc instead -->refusal, prisoned and sent to labour camps
  • refused cases --> ordered to army or 'conchies' were shot 
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How the government organised the Home Front for wa

1. Controlling Industry --> run things for the benefit of the war

2. Controlling food production and distribution --> rationing etc

3. Business as usual --> normally run

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Defence Of the Realm Act, 8th August 1914

Rationing 1917:

  • sugar, meat, jam, margarine and butter were rationed because merchant ships were being sunk etc

Minister of Munitions:

  • shortage of shells, bullets and guns on the Western front
  • increase production of armaments

Censorship (Good news only):

  • made it sound like Britian were doing well all of the time
  • make Britons more motivated


  • compulsory for all single men 18-41 and then married men also 3 months later
  • 1/3 men conscripted
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The contribution of women to the war effort

  • did the jobs of men and ran their families
  • took on more careers which were unexpected
  • supported men joining the army 
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Propaganda and Censorship

Newspaper reports:

  • early in the war, bad news was not reported
  • casualty list published May 1915
  • specific language used to keep morale high such as 'wastage' = death
  • most 'fell' it was not specifically stated that they had died 

Posters, postcards and cartoons:

  • millions of copies of different posters produced in 1st year 
  • most targetted at recruitment
  • combat war-weariness --> published terrible deeds of the enemy
  • postcards showed scences of a child leaving home and being honoured etc

Official photographs, films and paintings:

  • photographers given officer status and accessed the battlefields
  • Britain had just 4
  • artists used to collect records of the war
  • films were aimed to persuade people to contribute to the war effort by mocking Germans and praising Britain 
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