- In 1914, men from all over the country rushed to join the army.
- Some thought the war would be an adventure and that they would come home as heroes - inspired by the soldiers in their uniforms.
- This was encouraged by the idea of Pals' Battalions - soldiers could stay with their mates so it seemed like a holiday at first.
- Most people thought that the war would be over by Christmas.
- Many people joined up out of patriotism - they wanted to do their duty to their country.
- However, by 1915 recruitment rates began to drop, and eventually there weren't enough people enlisting to replace the soldiers that were injured or died at the front.
- This could be because people were beginning to realise that the war would last a lot longer than anticipated.
- Also, people were returning crippled and injured from the front and families were hearing about their dead relatives.
- There were also the first bombing raids in December 1915.
- Therefore conscription was introduced in 1916.
- All single men aged 18-40 had to join a military service.
- It was later extended to married men.
- Conscientious objectors - people who refused to enlist because they believed that war is wrong.
- Some e.g. Quakers objected for religious reasons.
- They had to convince a court that their feelings were genuine and not just cowardice. If they could not, they were treated as criminals.
- They were often sent to do non-combatant war work such as driving ambulances.
- They were disliked in Britain because many people felt that they were ignoring their duty to their country and were angry because their relatives had to fight.
DORA - The Defence of the Realm Act 1914
The government had to ensure that:
- there were enough resources to fight the war
- British people could fight and support the war
The act allowed the government to:
- take control of important industry e.g. coal mining
- take over 2.5 million acres of land/buildings (for farming)
- introduce British Summer Time to allow more daylight working hours
- control drinking hours/strength of alcohol
- introduce conscription
- censor newspapers and letters from soldiers
- enforce rationing
The Munitions Crisis 1915
- The Munitions Crisis of 1915 was a massive shortage of shells, bullets and armaments on the Western Front.
- Lloyd George was appointed munitions minister and tried to solve the problem by forcing skilled workers to stay where the government needed them.
- Trade unions protested by saying that bosses of the government's supplier firm were making a profit while workers could lose money if the government sent them somewhere with less pay.
- Lloyd George promised everyone that they could have their jobs back after the war.
- In 1914 Britain imported much of its food from the Empire.
- However, German U-boats began sinking boats that were shipping supplies to Britain.
- This meant that by 1917 there was a severe food shortage - only 6 weeks' supply of grain remained.
Lloyd George tried to solve the problem by:
- having navy convoys for merchant ships - this meant that the number sunk by the U-boats decreased from 25% to under 1%.
- encouraging farmers to grow more food. The Women's Land Army, a massive farming work force, was set up in 1917.
- introducing rationing.
- Optional rationing was introduced in 1917.
- Then in 1918 rationing became compulsory for beer, butter, sugar and meat.
- People were given coupons to hand over when they purchased food. If they had used up their coupons, that was it for the week.
- Some people hoarded food, worried about the rising prices.
- Some people used this food to sell on illegally later, creating a black market in food.
Women at War
- In 1914 the government saw women as supporters of men - they hoped that they would persuade them to join up.
- In 1915 they were beginning to see women as servers to fill the jobs of absent men.
- From 1916 the country was relying more and more on women, especially after conscription was introduced, to fill the roles of the missing men and get the country up and running again.
- Organisations such as the Women's Land Army and the Women's Auxiliary Corps made them more actively involved in the war effort.
Problems Faced by Women
- The food shortages posed a problem - prices were rising and queues were lengthening. They often sent servants and children to queue for long hours.
- Also, for the first time women were responsible for finance. Rents were rising and they needed to find the money to pay.
- They were helped by separation allowances - weekly sum paid to wives of servicemen. This was converted to a pension if the man was killed at the front.
- They often had to deal with the death of loved ones.
- Women had the opportunity to show men that they could be independent and could take on "men's jobs". This was a contributary factor towards them getting the vote in 1918. The 1918 Representation of the People Act gave women over 30 the right to vote.
The government thought that the way to keep the people supporting the war was to keep information from them that might turn them against it.
- Newspapers and letters from soldiers were censored - information that could reveal unwanted troops was cut out.
- Reporters were not allowed to see battles.
- There were no casualty figures available.
- There were no photos showing the dead.
Propaganda during the war aimed to:
- boost the morale of the people
- create hatred and suspicion of the enemy
- encourage civilians to get involved in the war effort
Examples of propaganda:
- Posters e.g. famous "Your Country Needs You" poster featuring Lord Kitchener
- The War Propaganda Bureau got leading writers to produce pamphlets.
- Propaganda films produced by Ministry of Information e.g. "The Battle of the Somme" (1917)
- Even toys and comics for young children promoted the idea of the brave British and the cowardly enemy.
How effective was propaganda?
- Half a million men joined the army in the first month of recruitment.
- The war was not publicly criticised until late 1916.
- Half of the population read daily newspapers and circulation went up e.g. from 1914 to 1918 the Daily Express sales went from 295,000 to 579,000.
- Patriotic organisations were set up e.g. the Victoria League
- The population was surrounded by the government's view - indoctrination.
How effective was propaganda?
- Soldiers knew the truth - the posed photographs were laughed at.
- More and more people began to oppose the war after the Battle of the Somme.
- There were no obvious successes on the Western Front until 1918.
- The government could not hide the crippled soldiers and bereaved families.
- Rationing was unpopular.
- Taxes increased.
- The end of the war was treated with relief rather than triumph.
Attitudes towards Germany
- By the end of the war, the British people had realised the financial and human cost of it.
- They blamed this on the Germans and wanted them to be treated harshly at the Paris Peace Conference.
- However, some people were worried about having to fight another war if the Germans wanted to seek revenge in the future.