Men's roles on the home front

Policeman, delivery boy, businessman, farmer, shipbuilder and miner with pit pony Policemen, businessmen, farmers, shipbuilders and miners had vital jobs on the home front
Jobs in 1914

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One hundred years ago, there were very big differences between the rich and poor and the work that they did.

Before the war most children left elementary school at twelve to go to work and many boys would follow their fathers into the same or similar job. It was very normal for a man to work in the same job for most of his working life.

Many men worked in the coal mining, steel, shipbuilding and textiles industries. Every morning the factory or mine 'hooter' (a siren) would sound when it was time to go to work.

Other men worked in the countryside and worked in jobs such as farmers, farm labourers, shepherds, blacksmiths, postmen and village shopkeepers. Around the coast many men were fishermen. Life was hard with long hours and low pay. People tended to live close to where they worked, often in a house provided by the railway company, coal mine owner or farmer. If they lost their job, they would lose their home too. Life expectancy was about 54 years for women and 50 for men.

Rich people

Richer men who had a better education, might own their own businesses, work in their family business or as a manager for a larger company or shop . Some were civil servants or in banking while others were doctors, lawyers or clergymen. There were also administrative (office) jobs in the British Empire. Before the war the British Empire ruled a quarter of the land on Earth and populations around the world.

The upper classes were the smallest group in Britain. Many were rich as they had inherited (were given) money from their family or were landowners or owned mines or factories. Some might be Members of Parliament (MPs) or perhaps Ministers in the Government.

Before the war, most married women stayed at home to look after the home and children while their husbands were the 'breadwinners' who worked and brought in a weekly wage to feed and clothe their families and provide a roof over their heads.

When the war came, things changed dramatically with hundreds of thousands of men volunteering to go to fight while many women went out to work to help with the war effort and to help feed their families.

Teachers' notes

Teachers' notes and classroom ideas looking at men's roles on the home front during World War One.

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