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:
1. Recruitment - there was a huge poster campaign to get people to join up, and the government had to introduce conscription in 1916. Conscientious objectors could be imprisoned. Women were recruited into the armed forces as nurses, drivers, cooks and telephonists. 2. 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 factories. The government worked with the trade unions to prevent strikes. 3. Reduced workforce - there were fewer workers because so many men left to join the army. 4. 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. 5. Propaganda - newspaper and soldiers' letters were censored. "The Tribunal" (a pacifist 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. 6. Civilian casualties - 57 zeppelin 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.
Propaganda was not just about finding recruits; it was designed to make people believe in certain ideas and viewpoints and to think in certain ways. The posters shown below are examples of propaganda used by the government to encourage men to join the army....
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