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20 October 2014
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Outcomes of the War: Britain
What happened to soldiers after the Armistice?

The War may end in many textbooks at precisely 11:00 am on 11th November 1918, but for the survivors life went on. Lloyd George's success in wartime was now tested to its full limits, without the support of a pre-war patriotic general public. Soldiers returning from the trenches would find a different Britain to the one of 1914, with high unemployment, a rising cost of living, strikes by new organised unions and a severe shortage of houses.

A returning soldier was given a month's paid leave, still in the service of the military, after which he was officially demobilised. If he still had not found a job he was given a small unemployment benefit for about six months. Beyond the first six months after demobilisation, if an ex-soldier could still not find a job they would have to join the dole queue.

The government needed to act quickly as more men were sent home who could not find jobs. The Unemployment Insurance Act of 1920 changed the laws of 1911, raising the amount of dole money given and the number of workers who could claim.

No. of workers covered (out of 19 million)2.25 million12 million
Weekly amount7 shillings15 shillings
Max. length of claim per year15 weeks15 weeks

Those that were able to return to their pre-war jobs were unhappy as well. Now that the War was over, the unions were eager to keep their war-time gains and wanted to progress further. The number of days lost in strikes in 1919 was almost seven times that of 1918. On 31st January 1919, the Clyde Workers Committee began a strike in Glasgow in which troops and tanks were called in to break up the rioting workers. In August of that year, the Liverpool police went on strike, resulting in the most serious industrial-related violence as people looted hundreds of shops.

Graph of working days lost through strikes

How do you think people reacted to the problems of returning to peace?

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A - People who were unemployed long-term became depressed and felt powerless to change things.

B - People who were employed fought hard to get more security and better pay and conditions.

C - People were angry at the government's lack of planning for the end of the war.

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