World War 1


Volunteer numbers were falling and there were not enough volunteers to replace the losses - not all groups in society were sharing the burden.

January 1916- conscription of all single men aged 18-40

May 1916- conscription extended to married men

As a result 1/3 of men were conscripted, different societies of men were involoved but the government made sure vital industries such as mining were effected.

One group called conscientious objectors refused to fight because it went against their conscience but they had to prove they were not simply cowards. If they proved this infront of a tribunal they were assigned with other war work such as ambulance driving. Men who refused to help the war effort were sent to labour camps or imprisoned.

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The role of women

In recruitment many women encourage men to fight by giving white feathers out as a sign of cowardice. Some even took an oath to encourage men to sign up.

By 1915, British industry was desperately short of workers so they began to employ women. Some were worried that women wouldn' t be able to learn the necessary skills, that women being paid less would be a threat to men's wages and that the men wouldn't get their jobs back.

They worked in facories as munitions workers, in farming, as postal workers, welders, bus conductors, steel workers, road layers, grave diggers and police officers.

Voluntary Aid Detachments - VADs - orginally set up for nurses of the war

Womens Army Auxiliary Corps - WAAC - 1918 - helped run the army

Womens Land Army - 1917 farming whils hte men were away

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August 1914 - to ensure public safety and defend the realm. It gave the government power to control the country in a new way:

  • Seize land and buildings
  • Take over industry - mining, railways, shipping, munitions
  • Control information
  • Food rationing
  • Control employment and wages
  • Pub licensing hours
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The Munitions Crisis and Rationing

By 1915 there was a chronic shortage of shells, bullets and armaments. Soldiers had to train with wooden sticks and were limited to the amount of amunition that they could use

As a result a coalition government was formed so all parties could work together and Lloyd George was made Minister of Munitions. Women were recruited and the government opened its own munitions factories.


Food shortages became a problem in 1916. German U-boats were sinking 1/4 of British merchant ships. By April 1917 Britain was down to 9 weeks supply of wheat and 4 days supply of sugar. As food ran short prices rose

  • 1917: raise wages of industrial workers
  • May 1917: voluntary rationing introduced
  • November 1917: controlled price of bread
  • 1918: compulsory rationing of sugar, butter, meat, beer. Coupon books were used and stiff penalties were introduced for breaking rationing rules.
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Propaganda and Cencorship


  • Expected to print what the govt wanted the reader to read
  • Printed headlines designed to stir up emotions whether accurate or not
  • Designed to develop hatred tha was already in Britain
  • Newspapers published casualty figures that were not accurate
  • British success in battles were emphasised
  • DORA listed things that reporters could and could not say


  • Posters used to get men to volunteer to join up
  • At first volunteers flooded in but voluntary recruiting levels fell and by 1915 the govt had to introduce conscription


  • Emerged as a new and powerful medium during the war
  • 240 films produced between 1915 and 1918
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How effective was propaganda?

  • Millions may have gone to see patriotic films but this does not mean that the message behind the films got through
  • As the war went on the strain on the British public increased considerably
  • Government was constantly concerned by the possibility that the British people would become war-weary and stop supporting the war
  • Lot of evidence to suggest most people mobilised themselves to support the war of their own accord
  • Public support remained firm despite immense casualties
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