The First World War has caused more social upheavel in Europe than any other war. As well as creating new countries and new frontiers, it was one of the primary causes for the Second World War. However it had a significant impact on the British public as well.
- 1 Government Action
- 2 Attacks on Civilians
Government Action[edit | edit source]
Tackling the Demands of War[edit | edit source]
During the 19th Century, the Liberal Party (not to be confused with the current Liberal-Democratic Party) and the Conservative Party both agreed that either government would not interfere or get involved with the lives of the public on a daily basis. However, as the twentieth century came around with a Liberal Government which had major reforms, Liberal Reforms, the government had now begun to increase its role, which was then further accelerated by the outbreak of the First World War. Five million men had now joined the army, the news publications had to be controlled for purposes of morale and even changes to the time, GMT clock, was changed to help the war effort.
Early Months[edit | edit source]
During the Early months it was believed that there were enough supplies and there was enough ammunition to sustain the Army. The current Chancellor of the Exchequor, David Lloyd George, had promised that Britain's business would be able to carry on as usual, which was quickly proved to be wrong. The rate that Britain used up supplies and lost men was unbelievable and was incredibly high above the estimated losses for the period.
Due to the high losses, the Government campaigned for even more men to join up. However this quickly made things worse as it was so successful. As men all over the country joined up after this new campaign, production in all industry was falling rapidly. This was due to all the fact that all the men that were leaving were the skilled workers of Britain. Needing years of experience, this was a blow for industry as production fell when it most needed to rise. Miners were needed in the coal mines and farmers were needed to harvest crops, yet most of them had joined the Army and gone to war. But these men were also killed very quickly, and even more skilled workers joined up, killing production even more. There was no way Britain would have kept the war going if it carried on in such an uncontrolled way.
Conscription[edit | edit source]
By 1916 it was clear that the war was not going to end quickly. Losses were high and there were a lot less men volunteering to join the Army. Therefore the government had no option but to force men to join the Army and fight. This was the first case of Conscription in Britain. The Military Service Act of January 1916 called up all unmarried men between the ages of 18 and 41. By May 1916, this had been amended to include married men in the same age bracket.
However, the conscription itself was not simply introduced to make sure there were enough soldiers. It was also introduced to ensure that workers who were in important jobs were not allowed to join to the Army. Workers in the Essential Industries, such as the railways, mining and munitions. However these men were still allowed to join the Army if they volunteered, so shortages still continued, though to a lesser extent.
The Workforce[edit | edit source]
The skilled workers which had gone to Army need to be replaced. However they had all received many years of training for their occupations and there was no chance of the same level and intensity of training to be given to their replacements, due to the timescale the country had to meet the wars demands. These workers also received higher wages. These factors all contributed to the Government wanting to introduce Dilution, allowing unskilled or semi-skilled workers with some basic training to carry out the jobs that used skilled workers.
In March 1915, Lloyd George arranged a conference with the workers' trade union leaders. The major result of this was the Treasury Agreement, where the trade unions agreed to dilution. However, Lloyd George was forced to agree that dilution must end when the war ended. The wages of the skilled and unskilled workers had to be kept the same throughout this period, as the unions were afraid dilution was purely being brought in the lower wages.
The Treasury Agreement was then followed by the Munitions of War Act in July 1915. This banned workers in the Munitions Industry from ever going on strike. Also introduced was the leaving certificate, which meant that no worker could now leave his job without the permission of his (or her, later in the war) employer. This made sure that factories were not short of their essential workers and so that workers could not leave their job to get a better paid one. If they did leave without a certificate, they would have to wait six weeks before starting the new job, six weeks without pay. Only a small minority of workers could survive without six weeks pay, and so the certificate was hated quickly.
Taking Control of Industry[edit | edit source]
During the war the government took control of those industries which were the most important to the war effort, such as shipbuilding, steel production, the railways and mining. This meant that the raw materials, vital supplies and food got to where they were needed as quickly as possible and that factories always had enough power to keep running. This started in 1914, when Lloyd George was appointed the first Minister of Munitions in the newly created Ministry of Munitions. This was created because earlier that year there had been a huge scandal over the lack of ammunition that the Army was getting, exposed by the Daily Mail. Because of this Lloyd George was determined to increase the production.
The main effect of the changes he made was that over 1 million women were working in the munitions industry by 1918, with over 20,000 new munitions factories. Because of this, by 1918 Britain was actually producing enough ammunition and ammunition for the Army, which was at the size of 4 million at the time. Having also realised that machine guns were the most effective weapon in trench warfare, Lloyd George ordered far more machine guns than the Army had requested. Indeed, Britain had only 1330 machine guns in 1914, but by 1918 Britain now had over 240,000.
Lloyd George was so successful that he became Prime Minister in 1916 and he realised that the government had to be directly involved in the munitions industry. After his success in the Ministry of Munitions, he then turned to railways. At the start of the war there were over 130 railway companies and there was no syncronised timetable. However during the war, the government ensured that the entire system was run by the biggest 10 of these companies with the profits spread out. This centrally run system meant that troops and ammunition could be moved rapidly to wherever they were required. The government also borrowed money to make sure that supplies didn't run out (mostly loans from the USA). For example, Summer 1916, the government bought the entire Indian Jute crop. Jute was used to produce the sandbags in trenches
The Defence of the Realm Acts (DORA)[edit | edit source]
The Defence of the Realm Acts were a series of measures that were made to give the government control over many aspects of the publics life. The first act was published in 1914. This cut the hours of pubs being opened, they were no longer allowed to be opened late into the night and early in the morning, therefore reducing the amounts of workers turning up to work drunk and incapable of efficiently helping the war effort. The new times were from 12pm to 2.30pm and from 6.30pm to 9.30pm. Beer was also watered down to reduce the alcohol content and the price was raised to make it too expensive to drink. It was also now illegal to buy drinks for other people, even for a husband or wife, known as Treating.
'British Summer Time' was also first introduced. It was ordered that the clocks be moved forward an hour. This was done so that an extra hour of work could be done, especially for workers and farmers. Newspapers were also censored so that they didn't report accounts of the battles which could give vital information to the Germans. Soldier's letters home were censored aswell.
Financing the War[edit | edit source]
Fighting the war on this huge scale was extremely expensive. The estimate for the cost of the was £9 billion (the equivalent of £50 billion in todays money). The tax was increased from 1 shilling 2d (less than 6p) to 6 shillings (30p). However this tax increase would not fund the war by itself. Free trade was sacrificed as import tax was placed on goods from other countries to try and make people buy British products. However the war was mainly paid by increasing the national debt, mainly from borrowing from the USA. By the end of the war, Britain owed around £7.4 billion. The public were encouraged to help lend money to the government by buying war savings certificates.
Food[edit | edit source]
Pre-Rationing[edit | edit source]
A year before the war, Britain imported 40% of its meat (from North America, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil), 80% of its wheat (from North America) and all of its sugar. Overall 2/3 of Britain's food was imported. Clearly it was essential for Britain to keep this supply defended against any attacks from the Central Powers, namely Germany. The strength of the Royal Navy, as all the supplies came by sea, meant that the supplies got through at the start of the war, though the prices went up around 60%, but by spring 1918, the German U-Boat campaign was sinking around 1-in-4 Allied merchant ships. Indeed, during one month in early 1917, 371 Allied ships were destroyed by U-Boat.
Introduction of Rationing[edit | edit source]
Attacks on Civilians[edit | edit source]
For the first time, the Public was directly attacked during a war. With only 33 anti-aircraft guns in Britain at the time (with 13 of these in London), and without blackouts not introduced until 1916, Britain was ill-prepared for the air warfare. There was rising concern about the defences, as the remaining aircraft in Britain just could not cope with the altitude of the German attacks, done mainly by Zeppelins and Gothas.
Aircraft Raids[edit | edit source]
Zeppelins[edit | edit source]
The first use of Zeppelins were for reconnaissance missions to see where enemy camps, trenches were on the battlefields and to see key bombing targets over the enemy homeland. Named after Count Zeppelin, it was not until a few months after the war started that they were used for actual bombing raids. The first raid was in January 1915, an attack on Great Yarmouth (by the L3 Zeppelin) and King’s Lynn (by the L4 Zeppelin). Overall Zeppelins made 57 raids on Britain, causing 564 deaths and 1370 wounded. However the first Zeppelin to be shot down was in 1916 the SL11, when incendiary bullets were used to combat the Zeppelins, as they were slow and burnt easily due to using hydrogen as a fuel. The most famous loss was the L48 Zeppelin, considered to have one of the best Zeppelin crews.
Bombers[edit | edit source]
The most common bomber used by the Germans against the British public was the twin-engined Gotha. The first attack was on Folkestone in Kent, killing 95. The following month London was attacked. The infamous attack on 13th June 1917 killed 162 people, including 18 children, wounding a further 37 children.
There was another bomber which was designed by the Germans to 'bring Britain to her knees'. Named the "The Giant", it was bigger than the Gotha and used ammunition nicknamed "Elektron Bombs", which were very effective incenderies. However it was never used against Britain, despite their use planned in late 1918, as they were needed on the Western Front and they were also vulnerable.
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Naval Attacks in Britain were less common than the Aircraft Raids, however this is due to the fact the aircraft could attack areas apart from the coast. However in December 1914, German warships attack the north-east coast, killing 119 people.