BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

18 September 2014
Accessibility help
Wars and Conflict

BBC Homepage

Contact Us

The Home Front in World War One

By Peter Craddick-Adams
Image of Conventry Cathedral which was bombed
New pic needed ©

Before World War One British society largely denied women the recognition and rights enjoyed by men. This all changed, however, in the war described as 'everybody's war' - a war of unknown warriors.

Everybody's war

During both world wars the British Isles were under attack, which meant that the civilian population as a whole, as well as the soldiers fighting overseas, found themselves in some ways 'at the war front'.

'Zeppelin raids on London ... did have the effect of drawing everybody into the war.'

World War One (the Great War) is usually remembered as mainly a soldiers' conflict - with six million men mobilised to fight overseas, and the number of military casualties very high compared to those of civilians - but nevertheless the Zeppelin raids on London in April 1915 did have the effect of drawing everybody into the war. And as it progressed, the entire nation’s population and resources were harnessed to the war effort in one way or another, so most people came to feel involved in the conflict.

Wearing a uniform of some kind (whether in the forces or as a male or female police officer, postal worker or bus conductor) was an obvious way of contributing, but civilians working in a factory making uniforms, guns, ammunition, tanks or ships had every right to feel they were contributing as much to the war effort as a man with a gun. So, too, had dockers and miners.

Families with men at the front certainly felt part of the war, whilst clergymen who comforted the bereaved, or journalists who wrote stirring patriotic editorials, likewise had a key role as opinion formers.

Then, when food rationing was introduced in January 1918, following the German submarine blockade of 1917, previously uninvolved housewives, as they eked out their modest supplies of sugar and meat (the first two items to be rationed), could also feel they had a part to play. By this time the whole of Britain, effectively, was the Home Front, and the citizens collectively were the soldiers on that front.

Published: 2005-03-14

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy