Chapter 3 Britain at war 1914-18

why were there different attitudes to war?

why did war break out?

  • 4 august 1914- outbreak of war
  • came about through quite a rapidly developing crisis
  • result of a long period of tension between Britain and Germany
  • not unexpected
  • build up of suspicion and hostility between governments
  • increasing number of the general public held hostile attitudes towards Germany
  • sense that matters were coming to a head
  • reinforced by reports of atrocities committed by German troops as they moved through Belgium and the execution of civilians who resisted when German troops entered France
  • concerns about German naval expansion
  • popular campaign to build up the British fleet to meet a possible threat
  • campaigns about German economic competition
  • publication of spy and adventure stories in which British heroes battled with sinister German plots helped to create a mood of hostility before 1914
  • invasion of Belgium by Germany confirmed Britain had a moral duty to oppose rampant militarism and disregard for the rights of independent nations

uniting the people

  • sense that war might unite the people of Britain behind a cause
  • on going debate about the need for national efficiency, improvements in the physical condition of the nation, need for greater moral health
  • chance for British people to show the moral qualities that had won the empire
  • show sacrifice, unity and 'manhood'
  • case of national revival after a period of internal conflict

expectations of war

  • based on the short wars in Europe in the 1860s, short war between Russia and Japan in 1805
  • huge forces of France and Russia, Britain's great navy
  • seemed obvious that the Allies would win
  • not thought that the war would be drawn out or involve the total commitment of Britain's population
  • Britain's industrial power, great empire and strong allies made war a frightening prospect for its enemies
  • consequences of a modern war involving a large number of nations were not foreseen
  • became clear that the war would be a long one and casualties would be high
  • commitment had been made
  • a new attitude emerged
  • no longer a support for a dash to glory that led some to rush to volunteer before it was too late
  • became a test of resolve, character and willingness to sacrifice for a cause
  • determination that those who had died should not have done so in vain
  • 'thing had to be seen through'
  • constant- expectation that Britain would win

volunteering to fight

  • regular peacetime army was highly skilled but small
  • relied on volunteers- by 1915 had largely replaced the pre war force, most had been killed
  • few had experience of fighting
  • sense of adventure and testing oneself
  • chance to break away from the dull routine of office or workshop
  • group decision- different clubs and societies often led men to want to maintain comradeship in war
  • 'pals' battalions to keep friends together
  • certain amount of social pressure- expectation of employers, friends, families, girlfriends, people in the street that men should do their bit
  • government recruitment campaign was extensive
  • became increasingly apparent after the disastrous and costly…


No comments have yet been made