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How were civilians affected by World War 1?

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2011-09-13 06:02:55
2011-09-13 06:02:55

(I have generally deleted the previous answer and replaced it with my own, as all but 1 minor point are covered and expanded upon in my answer, Alex)

Why the British citizens continued the war

The British people felt that it was right to go to war against Germany; Germany had violated the independence of a neutral country (Belgium) that had been protected by the joint signatures of France, Britain and Germany and then began the exploitation of materals within those country's for his how war effort. This initial action stirred up a sense of chauvenism within the British population who became positively angled towards continuation of what became a 'Total War' against Germany and her Allies.

The British population at home was stimulated to fight a war against Germany as they had realised that Germany had far-reaching military ambitions which were in part due to it being an autocracy. The treatment of prisoners and refugees from uccupied territories also continued to be emphasised by the government throughout the war. The sinking of the Lusitania was an espcially antagonising event.

There were also in realisation that Germany would likely disregard all their current human rights as was shown by their (the Germans) use of gas in 1915, which was in direct contrast with the rules set out by the Hague Protocol of 1908. Also the highly publiscised murder of Edith Cavell gave British people yet more resolve to continue the war efforts.

Government Legal Implementations during WWI

DORA

The first act of the government that directly contributed towards to the rights of people at home was made on August the 8th 1914, it was called the Defence of the Realm Act, which is often shortened to DORA. DORA was extended in both 1915 and 1916 however the initial implementation gave the government a number of special legal rights such as the ability of the cabinet to impose rules via the Admiralty and the Army Council when it was necessary for an event to defend the safety of the United Kingdom and its Populace.

DORA also enabled censorship of distributed articles which allowe the government to edit newspapers, change personal mail from the front and generally cover-up the true consequences and effects of the war on the population. Censorship is one of the most widely used tactics as a method of concealing true events and was employed by many countries during the First World War, all of who were worried about the morale of the workforce at home.

DORA also allowed the internment of hostile forces (basically anyone suspected of being a spy) without trial as a method of protecting the country from hostile infiltration.

Railways

In August 1914, one of the initial acts of the government was to seize control of the railways to allow for troop movements. However the government did not take full control, they allowed the railway managers to continue running the railways however dictated routes for their troops, in return for which the railways managers wages were garunteed to an extent.

In 5th August 1914 fresh recruiting attempts begun when the army was allowed a further 500,000 troops. This number was attained through the use of propoganda such as the infamous Kitchener posters. Actual conscription during this period was so large that it left many industries redundant as their workers had gone, in these key industries it often took months to bring back the men from the front to the factories.

The Munitions of War Act

The Munitions of War Act was implemented from May 1915 and was a joint collaberation between the government and the TUC (which will be discussed later).

The Munitions of War Act applied to all companies that were a contributing factor in the British war effort, such as those producing army clothing and munitions. The main effects of this act were that -

· Strikes and lock-outs prohibited to try to minimise the time lost due to workers taking union suggested strikes.

· All workplace issues were to be solved by compulsary arbitration.

· Wages within the workplace were protected by the government as insurance against the government by the TUC, also wage increases would need to be government improved.

· Trade unions had to abandon restrictive practices and allow unskilled and semi skilled men and women to take the place of skilled men who had gone to the front. This method was known as dilution, where a more skilled workforce was made less skilled as more unskilled workers entered it (escpecially a issue when it came to munitions production where often bombs would be poorly constructed and thus wouldn't explode, so mass production of duds).

· Profits in contributing industries were to be controlled by the government in an attempt to minimise was profiteering.

· The government was allowed to direct workers to certain industries in certain areas of the country in order to maximise production activity.

· People commiting offences under this act were to be tried in special munitions tribunals.

Military Issues

Both the introduction of conscription and voluntary service into the armed forces posed considerable challenges for people and industry in Britain, the initial wave of fevoured patriotic joining by the masses meant that huge numbers of vital workers were leaving their professions, the government had to bring these workers back to their jobs to allow the smooth production of vital goods. Upon the introduction of conscription (all men 18-41 excepting married men) many of these men would be conscripted, so the government had to introduce 'reserved occupations' wherby people in those occupations were exempt from conscription. Conciencious Objectors were also exempt from military service. Also in May 1916 conscription was increased to include all married men ages 18-41, this was an extension to the conscription introduced in January 1916.

Despite the governments attempts to improve the health of the population after the Boer War in areas there was still up to a 70% level of rejection by the army as the people were unfit for service. It showed an underlying issue with the people of Britain. Others were excluded due to being in 'reserved occupations'.

Also the dilution of the workforce proved to be a key factor in military problems, the quality of shells was extremyl low with huge numbers of duds being produced. This was a huge issue even during the munitions crisis of 1914/1915 when Britain had to make shells to level the deficits between itself and Germany.

Trade Unions

The trade unions wielded huge power during the war, and also increased their influence hugely, their spokebody was generally the TUC (Trade union Congress) and it often collaberted with the government on key ligislation that would affect the lives of individuals. The government was thus able to largely succeed in banning strikes and restrictive practices whilst getting companies to accept conscription and dilution through the use of the TUC and Trade Unions and affiliates. The governmental reliance on the TUC meant that it became a integral part of British life, and the Trade Unions remains o today.

However in areas distrust built up between the Trade Unions and the working classes who felt that the TUC was leaning to much towards the upper class political party's intrests rather than supporting their own, this meant hat the Trade Unions lost much support from the sector. In areas, such as 'red' clydeside there were violent protests by the working classes due to the loss of the right to strike as they felt the TUC had supported the Munitions Act to easily and had thus given up many of their rights. Due to these mistrusts in some areas 'Shop Stewards' (who were fellow workers who represente their colleagues) were set up in direct conflict with the official representative. They were also important in the strikes in the engineering industry that occurred in 1917.

The actual membership of Trade Unions grew from 4 million in 1914 to 6 million by the end of the war, the Trade Unions did help to gain better stability and pay however the fear that it was becoming biased towards government desires built up resentment amongst many of the working class.

· 1913, Days lost to strikes - 9,804,000 over 1459 strikes and 664,000 strikers.

· 1918, Days lost to strikes - 5,875,000 over 1165 strikes and 1,116,000 strikers.

· 1919, Days lost to strikes - 34,969,000 over 1352 strikes and 2,591,000 strikers.

Intrestingly the number of strikers increased during the war; however the number of days lost due to strieks decreased. After the war the effect that the post was slump caused meant that there was a huge increase in striking people. The main reasons for striking during the war were; the cost of living, war profiteering, conscripton, dilution (explained elsewhere) of the workforce and administive incompetance.

Food and Drink

There was a lack of certain food substances during the First World War however these lackings were NOT major issues to the survival of people, there was no time during WWI when people didn't have enough food available to survive. That was not a circumstance that occurred. The government had pre-empted shortages to many supplies such as those to Wheat and Sugar of which the government made bulk purchases early on as to form stockpiles that could last the country. Also shortages of items such as Indian Jute and Russian Flax (used for tents) were pre-empted with huge quanities being brought due to the fear of a loss of trade routes with both countries. These fears were mainly due to the use of U-Boats by Germany.

There was inflation during the First World War, however this was expected during a period of political and military uncertainty. Between July 1914 and June 1916 overall there was 59% inflation. By the Spring of 1917 bread cost twice as much as it had in 1914. The government intervened here, as bread was part of the staple diet for many British people. In the Spring of 1917 they lowered the price of 4lb of Bread to 9d (from 1 shilling), from November a similar subsidy was placed upon potatoes.

There was one main event which seriously threatened the food supplies to Great Britain; this was the sustained and largescale submarine warfare that was imposed upon Britain in the late Autumn of 1916 onwards. This method of intercepting all supplies to Britain (using unrestricted submraine warfare, which many saw as a crime against humanity as it meant that no ship, no matter what its cargo was, was safe) caused wholesale disruption to British food supplies from abroard, which almost cripplng consequences. Britain was left, at one period, with 4 days of sugar supplie remaining and 9 weeks of Wheat supplies left.

Rationing was introduced at a local level in some areas in 1916 and was increased further in 1917 in many countries after the idea was put forwards by Lord Rhondda (Lord Devonport's replacement in the job of food controller with responsibility for distribution, after Devonport failed to make any substancial difference to anything).

Sir George Prothero was appointed as the President of the Board of Agriculture in 1916, his main duty was to increase domestic food production. He did this job successfully as he helped convert an extra 3 million acres of land for agrilcultural usage. This equated into a yearly output of 1 million tons of wheat and 1.3 million tonnes of potatoes being produced.

The government implemented a major crackdown on the consumption of alcohol and its effects. (Lloyd George, War Memoir ½ P173, 'To ensure a more rigid control of drinking facilities in the munition areas.') It was begun due to issues with sailors and the navy, many of whom turned up drunk or alcohol assisted to their duties. The government chose to restrict the oppurtunity to drink in coastal towns, and further to this began expanding scheme countrywide. Between 1914 and 1918 convictions for drunkennes dropped hugely from 4872 in Britain in 1914 to only 804 in 1918.

Due to the efforts of the ministers, Britain became 80% self-sufficent by 1918 in terms of food production.

Taxes

The war was extremely expensive and it led to huge increases in taxes in order to pay for some of the war debts. Before the war the national debt was £625million approx. of debt, by the end of the war this had increased to £7,980million and it accounted for around 70% of expenditure during the war. A vast amount of the remainder was accounted for through taxation. Lloyd George during 1914-1915 increased income tax from 9d per pound to 1s 6d per pound. McKenna during 1915-1916 raised this further to 3s 6d in the pound. Finally Bonar Law from 1916-1918 increased this to 6s in the pound.

The increases in taxation were substancial as they marked a over six-fold increase in taxes which the populace had to burden.

Womens Impact

Women in the first world war played an important role in the replacing of male workers and were key 'diluters' of many workforces (although this is by no means a negative comment) women helped to provide the labour that the government so desperately needed.

The Suffrage movements of the NUWSS and WSPU combined into the NUWSS movement (the Suffragette movement had itself become an autocratic group with huge differences in opinions and ill-feeling between members, the Pankhursts gave up their campaign on the outbreak of war, which had fully disintergrated by 1916) The NUWSS began dedicating itself fully towards the war effort. However the effect of women can easily be over-exagerated. In 1914 there were 5.96million wome in paid employment; however by 1918 this was only up to 7.31million which does not indicate a dramatic increase when the number of soldiers is considered (by 1918 this was around 3,500,000). It is perhaps more accurate to consider that children played more of an impacting role, with the number of child workers who were under 14 increasing four-fold during the war.

However a definite outcome of the war was that women were being given more responsible jobs, the number in educated and advanced employment began to catch up on the number in domestic jobs (which had been womens main jobs for many years). It showed that women were capable of fulfilling these duties.

However after the war the level of female employment fell to almost exactly that of pre war levels, the women were unable to hold onto the jobs after the war, either due to the returning male labourors or the following economical slump. Although many that were kept were in higher ability jobs which gave a basis for other women.

Human Loss

The loss of human life was tremendous, there was a 'lost generation' of those aged 18-25 who had died in the war and with their deaths had left behind a wake of fatherless children and widows that would leave economical and mental scars on British society for years. This effect was felt across all countries involved in the war. Notable losses included Asquiths son and two of Bonar Laws, it showed that the war did not just affect the working classes (as many had complained).

Also there was a huge number of disabled people within the population as a direct result of the First World War and injuries sustained, these had to be cared for by the government which set up numberous specialised institutions for their care.

Aftermath

In February 1918 (agreeably it was before the end of the war, however its causes were due to actions of the war and thus it was an aftermath of these) the government passed the Representation of the People Act which allowed women over 30 the vote. It meant that the post war election would be the first to involve women voters, although full franchise for women wasn't obtained until 1928. Intrestingly, although women's actions during the war were a major influence on them getitng the vote, it wasn't the young main factory workers who received the vote, but the older women who had perhaps acted more inconspicuously.

Further to this act in 1919 The Sex Disqualification Act opened up the legal profession to women, and also allowed a limited amount of access high level civil service jobs. Soon after the register of nurses recognised nursing as a profession. Through the 1918, 1920 and 1921 National Insurance Ats women were made eligible for national insurance benefits.

The liberal party and its ambitions had been ended by the Lloyd George vs. Asquith debate, especially the vote of no confidence initiated by Asquith which he was defeated on. It finally showed the divide between the Asquith and Lloyd George supporters and within the liberal party itself. Lloys George became the last Liberal to serve as a Government leader (although not leader of a singular party government). The labour party grew very substancially during this period and became a leading force.

The government had interferred in the affairs of private businesses and individuals and thus in the future it was more likely that they would do the same or atleast be more intrested in economical welfare within the country. During the war they had possesses a huge amount of control, this left an impression on the government as to the effect they could have.

Timeline

1914

· August - DORA was introduced, the railways were taken over by the government.

· September - Recruiting begins for a further 500,000 people for the armed forces.

· December - The Union of Deomocratic Control was set up, as an anti-war organisation.

1915

· May- A coalition government is formed after the splitting of the liberal party, the Munitions Act is introduced.

· July - The National Registration Act lists all men elligible for military service.

· October - The British nurse accused of being a spy in Germany is shot (executed) by the Germans.

1916

· January - Conscription is introduced, which directly contradicts the liberal principle (although they werent in power, it showed lacking of resolve for their own cause).

· April - Easter Uprising in Dublin, thousands killed, British see it as treachery and put it down (around 500 British casualities).

· December - Lloyd George is made Prime Minister.

1917

· February - Bread is rationed, the voluntary rationing of other foods is also requested as the after math of the Germany U-Boat campaign is felt in its entireity, at this point the government garunteed prices of basic food. During this month the Womens Land Army was created.

1918

· February - Women over 30 are given the vote for the first time in the Representation of the People Act.

· April - Meat rationing introduced.

· July - The Education Act increases school leaving age partly in response to the icnreased child labour during the war.

Bibliography

· War Memoirs Of David Lloyd George Volume ½

· A social history of England - Asa Briggs

· Industry and Empire - E.J. Hobsbawm

· Britain 1890-1939 - Rosemary Rees

· British History 1870-1918 - Dr Robert Johnson

· Britain 1890-1924 - Mike Bryne

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