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How did DORA affect civilian life?

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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 basicsPeople 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 [Conscription: Compulsory enrolment in the armed forces. ] in 1916. Conscientious objectors [Conscientious objectors: People who refused to fight in the two world wars, because of strong personal beliefs against war. ] 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 [munitions: Ammunition, weapons and other military equipment. ] 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 [Pacifist: A person who believes in peace and not violence, and opposes all wars - for either moral or religious reasons. ] newspaper) was shut down, and lies were made up about German atrocities. Posters encouraged morale. The film "The Somme" was a failed attempt at using film for propaganda because actually seeing the men die upset viewers.
  6. Civilian casualties - 57 zeppelin [Zeppelin: A German airship. ] 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 - what did it do?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 [Propaganda: A type of advertising for an idea or cause, produced by supporters or opponents of that idea or cause. It is usually produced to influence how the people of a nation think. ] used by the government to encourage men to join the army.
Poster 1
  1. Back
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5
  7. Next
Think about how each poster was supposed to 'work' on the civilian. Can you think which was the least, and the most effective poster, and why?
  • Women of Britain say go - this was designed to appeal to men who felt they needed to defend their womenfolk.
  • Remember Belgium - this was designed to make people think about the unjust attack on little Belgium, which Britain went to war to rectify.
  • Your country's call - this was designed to make people think that beautiful Britain was worth fighting for. This was the least successful poster, because most people who enlisted came from the towns.
  • Your country needs YOU - a direct appeal, and by far the most successful poster of all time.
  • Daddy what did YOU do in the Great War? - this was designed to shame 'shirkers' into joining the army.
 How did women help the war effort?
  1. Recruitment - women were recruited as nurses into the Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) or First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY), and as drivers, cooks and telephonists into the WAAC [WAAC: Women's Army Auxiliary Corps ], WRNS [WRNS: Women's Royal Naval Service ] and WRAF [WRAF: Women's Royal Air Force ].
  2. DORA [DORA: Defence of the Realm Act ] - many women 'munitionettes' worked in the government's munitions factories.
  3. Reduced workforce - women took on traditional men's jobs and became firemen, coalmen and bus conductors.
  4. Rationing - the main burden of coping fell on mothers. The Women's Land Army helped with agricultural production.

After the war, men took back their jobs and most women returned to the family. However, the War did bring about political and social changes:
  • Political - women over 30 years old got the vote in 1918. Women over 21 years old got the vote in 1928. Women were also allowed to stand for election as MPs, but there were only eight women MPs in 1923.
  • Social - women became more liberated. Short skirts and short hair became fashionable and many women smoked in public.
 Revision tip and answer preparation  Revision tipConsolidate the information in both lists into a single spidergram.  Answer preparationAs part of your revision, think about the arguments and facts you would use to explain:
  1. How women contributed to the war effort.
  2. How civilians were affected by the war.
  3. How effective government propaganda was during the war.
  4. To what extent people's lives were affected by the war.
  5. To what extent women's lives were changed by the war.

Remember that you will get poor marks for questions 4 and 5 if you only describe the facts - you will need to explain how the changes affected people.
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