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British Depth Study Civilians

OCR History GCSE How was British

society changed, 1890-1918?

Outbreak of War

The First World War started in August 1914

The public mood was very positive; people

expected the war to be over by Christmas

Most people felt that Britain would easily win

the war, and it seemed like an adventure

Women were excited about work opportunities


Between 1914 and 1916, 2.5 million men

volunteered for the British Army

This was a result of the recruitment campaign

launched by the Government in 1914

Often whole groups of friends from an area

joined up together as a Pals Battalion

By late 1915, the Government were

considering conscription


In January of 1916, military service became compulsory for

all single men aged 18-41

However, in May this was later extended to all married men

According to the act, only those men in reserved

occupations were exempt; this included miners or those
working in munitions factories

By 1918, all men up to the age of 51 were included in this


Conscientious objectors were people who refused to fight or

join the army

They were often imprisoned, and had to appear before a

local tribunal to explain their beliefs


In August 1914, the Government introduced the

Defence of the Realm Act (DORA)

This gave the government power to pass laws

quickly and easily, and take over businesses to
help the war effort

The Government fixed profits and wages of any

remaining industries, including the coal industry

New state-run munitions factories were opened

due to the munitions crisis

By the end of the war, the Government controlled

about 20,000 factories

Food Shortage

The Government encouraged women to work on the

land throughout the war

The nine penny loaf was created to ensure that poor

people could afford food

German U-Boats began attacking ships coming into

the UK, so food shortages became serious

Voluntary rationing was encouraged in 1916 and 1917

These did not work, however, so compulsory rationing

was introduced in 1918

There was a black market, but punishments for this

were very severe

Civilian Casualties

Compared to military casualties, there were

relatively few civilian casualties

However about 1,500 civilians were killed

throughout the war

In late 1914, German warships shelled towns in

North East England

In early 1915, Zeppelin airships began bombing

raids on England

There were 57 raids

In May 1917, German Gotha bombers began the

first of 27 raids on British towns


DORA allowed the government to control all propaganda

that was released

A lot of propaganda was targetted at children through

books, games and toys; this seems to have been the
most effective

Official films aimed to persuade people to contribute to

the war effort and mocked the Germans

Posters and cartoons always avoided explicit description

of the war

Official photographs were not allowed to show the dead

or dying; many soldiers laughed at these because they
did not represent at all what life was like for them


Newspapers were heavily monitored

The pacifist Newspaper The Tribunal was shut


They used slang to keep morale high

The press did not publish bad news early on in

the war

No casualty lists were published until May


Newspaper correspondents were not allowed