History GCSE / National 5: How the British workforce helped turn the tide in 1918

With a German victory in sight in the spring of 1918, a huge effort by the British workforce helped to turn the war in the Allies favour, by keeping the troops supplied with coal and munitions.

Jeremy Paxman reads the words of British army commander General Sir Douglas Haig in April 1918, telling his men to fight on until the end, as we see archive footage of battlefield devastation.

He visits a mine in South Wales, and explains how British workers suspended strikes, worked through their holidays and volunteered for extra shifts to support the war effort.

Munitions workers, miners and shipbuilders all took part in this extra help for the troops’ supply chain, and men in protected industries volunteered themselves to fight.

Whilst the home front in Britain pulled together, Germany experienced strikes, demonstrations against the war and hunger due to Allied blockades, all of which helped diminish German morale.

The arrival of US troops to support the Allies is also discussed as a factor in turning the tide of the war.

Teacher Notes

KS3: Use as an access point to the idea of protected jobs in the war. Might be used as a decision making task to include conscientious objectors, in identifying those who were not involved in direct combat.

GCSE: Use as a prelude to the post war debate of was Britain a “Land fit for heroes” to provide context for continuing working class discontent in post war Britain.

National 5/ Higher: Use as an introduction to the effect of the war effort at home on the course of the war and changing industrial relations. Students could concentrate on industries in their local area or more general Scottish examples. What part did the chosen industry play? What scale of effort was involved? what were relations between workforce and management like at this time? How different was this industry before, during and after the war?

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching History. This topic appears in at KS3 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and OCR, Edexcel, AQA and WJEC/Eduqas GCSE/KS4 in England and Wales and CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland. It also appears in National 5 and Higher in Scotland.

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