The Home Front

The Home Front

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  • Created on: 06-05-13 14:00



  • 2 August - war declared on Germany
  • 8 August - DORA is introduced


  • May - a coalition government is formed to handle the growing crisis in Britain
  • July - munitions crisis. British troops face a severe shortage of weapons so the Ministry of Munitions is set up


  • 25 January - conscription is introduced of all single men aged 18-40
  • 16 May - conscription now applies to married men as well
  • 1 July - Battle of the Somme begins
  • 18 November - Battle of the Somme ends
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1916 (contd.)

  • 7 December - Lloyd George becomes Prime Minister in place of Herbet Asquith. Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Food are set up


  • February - Germany begins its most devastating campaign of submarine warfare
  • April - German U-boats sink one in four British merchant ships in the Atlantic. Food supplies are running low
  • November - voluntary rationing is introduced, but fails


  • April - compulsory rationing is introduced for entire country
  • 11 November - the Armistice is signed. The war is officially over
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Recruitment and Conscription

When war broke out in 1914 Britain only had a small army. It needed a large one quickly, so the government began a massive recruitment drive.

Half a million signed up in the first month. By 1916 over two million had been enlisted.

In 1916 the government introduced conscription, for a number of reasons:

  • not enough volunteers
  • the dead and wounded needed replacing
  • the volunteer system was damaging Britain's industry, e.g. miners needed in Britain
  • the volunteer system was seen as unfair (fit, healthy men not volunteering)

Conscientous objectors, or 'conchies', were opposed to the war for religious or political reasons. They had to appear before a tribunal to prove that they were not just cowards. Some were sent to prison, while others worked in field hospitals or as stretcher bearers on the front line.

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The Defence Of the Real Act allowed the government to take over any industries which were important to the war effort. It also allowed the government to use censorship.

As a result of the munitions crisis, in which British troops faced a severe shortage of shells, bullets and armaments, a coalition government was formed so that all parties could work together to support the war effort. Lloyd George was made Minister of Munitions.

Lloyd George encouraged women to work, especially in munitions, but at first the Trade Unions resisted this.

Lloyd George's plans worked, and the British army was well supplied with munitions for the rest of the war.

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Feeding the country

Under DORA the government was able to take over land and use it for farming. In February 1917 it set up the Women's Land Army to recruit women as farm workers.

In April 1917 German U-boats were sinking one in every four British merchant ships. Britain had only six weeks' supply of wheat left.

In May 1917 voluntary rationing was introduced. In November laws were introduced to control the price of bread, and posters were published encouraging people not to waste it. Recipe books which used less flour were circulated.

This didn't work, however, so in early 1918 the government introduced compulsory rationing of sugar, butter, meat and beer.

On the whole, rationing was seen as a fairer system. The diet and health of many poor people actually improved due to rationing.

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Propaganda and Censorship

DORA gave the government the right to control the newspapers and mass media that might influence people's opinions towards the war. British people were only told about great British victories, and bad news such as the sinking of British battleships was not reported.

The government also censored information from soldiers, and many soldiers chose not to tell relatives the truth because they didn't want to worry them.

The pacifist newspaper Tribunal was closed down by the government.

Propaganda was also aimed at children - toys were made that encouraged support for the war effort, and patriotic books and comics were published.

The Battle of The Somme, a propaganda film, was a huge commercial success.

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Women's contribution

When war broke out in 1914 both the suffragists and suffragettes suspended their campaigns for the vote. The suffragists worked to persuade men to join the army, while the suffragettes demanded that women be allowed to work in munitions factories.

In August, all suffragettes were released from prison.

By the end of the war almost 800,000 women had taken up work in engineering industries. 260,000 women served in the Women's Land Army.

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Why did women get the vote?

In 1918 women over the age of 30 gained the right to vote. There are a number of possible reasons for this:

  • The war effort - women served the nation and did men's work in many ways. When they were given the vote in 1918, almost every person who supported the motion in Parliament said that they deserved it because of their conduct during the war.
  • The suffragettes - some historians argue that politicians couldn't face a return to Suffragette violence after the war.
  • Sylvia Pankhurst - in June 1914 she took a delegation of working class women to meet Prime Minister Asquith, who didn't think that working class women were intelligent enough to have the vote. This proved Asquith wrong
  • The suffragists - some historians argue that the long-term persuasion of the Suffragists won the vote. In 1916, Lloyd George (who supported women's suffrage) replaced Asquith as prime minister, and many pro-suffrage MPs who had been young men before 1914 now held influential places in the government.
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