The Home Front during the First World War
The First World War was the first 'total war' - the whole nation had to be mobilised to fight. Men joined the army while women took over their jobs, but was this change lasting or a temporary effect of total war?
The population at home - the basics
People in Britain were affected by six main ways:
- Recruitment - there was a huge poster campaign to get people to join up, and the government had to introduce conscription [Conscription: Compulsory enrolment in the armed forces. ] in 1916. Conscientious objectors [Conscientious objectors: People who refused to fight in the two world wars, because of strong personal beliefs against war. ] could be imprisoned. Women were recruited into the armed forces as nurses, drivers, cooks and telephonists.
- The Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) - this was passed in August 1914. DORA allowed the government to take over the coal mines, railways and shipping. Lloyd George became Minister of Munitions and set up state-run munitions [munitions: Ammunition, weapons and other military equipment. ] factories. The government worked with the trade unions to prevent strikes.
- Reduced workforce - there were fewer workers because so many men left to join the army.
- Rationing - a fixed allowance for sugar, meat, butter, jam and tea was introduced in 1918. British Summer Time was also introduced to give more daylight working hours.
- Propaganda - newspaper and soldiers' letters were censored. "The Tribunal" (a pacifist [pacifist: Someone who is completely opposed to any kind of violence and will not participate in any war or army effort. ] newspaper) was shut down, and lies were made up about German atrocities. Posters encouraged morale. The film "The Somme" was a semi-successful attempt at using film for propaganda because the graphic nature of actually seeing the men die upset many viewers.
- Civilian casualties - 57 zeppelin [Zeppelin: A German airship. ] bombing raids after 1915, and the German navy shelled Hartlepool, Whitby and Scarborough.
Read on to learn more about propaganda and the role women played in the war effort.