The Effect of World War I on Civilians

The Effect of World War I on Civilians
World War one was a military conflict which took place between 1914 and 1918. It involved many European countries as well as America and other countries around the world. This war was one of the most violent and destructive in European history. World War I was the first total war. Once the war began, the countries involved mobilized their entire populations and economic resources to achieve victory on the battlefield. The term home front, which was widely employed for the first time during World War I, perfectly symbolized this new concept of a war in which the civilian population behind the lines was directly and critically involved in the war effort. When war broke out in during 1914, Britain only had a small professional army ? it needed a large one quickly. The government launched a huge recruitment campaign with posters, leaflets, recruitment offices in every town and motivating speeches by politicians and ministers. Despite the country already having a strong anti-German feeling, the press strengthened it with regular stories of German atrocities. This recruitment campaign was highly successful and by 1915 over two million men had been enlisted in the army.
However, in 1916, numbers started to fall and the demand started to increase. The government were forced to introduce conscription. This meant that all men aged 18 to 40 had to register for active service. These men could be called up at any time to fight for Britain. But in the end many welcomed the governments taking the control of the situation and introducing conscription as they thought the volunteer system was unfair. They thought that not all parts of society were taking an equal share of the burden. There was a feeling that some groups were avoiding the war and some of the fittest and strongest men were not bothered to enlist in the war. Not everyone welcomed conscription though. Fifty MP?s voted against the introduction of conscription in parliament. Also those who opposed the war due to religious of political reasons were also against conscription. It would be against their will to fight so they were named conscientious objectors and nicknamed ?conchies?. Conchies had to prove they had a genuine reason for not wanting to fight and weren?t just scared. Also, in 1914 the government passed the Defence Of the Realm Act (dora). It gave the government massive powers to control many aspects of people?s daily lives, this included being able to seize any land or buildings, to control newspapers and the media and to take over any industries which were important to the war effort. Immediately after introducing dora the government took over the coal mining industry so that the money was going towards the war rather than private owners. In 1915, the government faced its first major problem of the war - there was a shortage of munitions. The ?munitions crisis?? as it was known as became a national scandal exposed by the Daily Mail. Due to this crisis a coalition government was formed to work together to support the war effort. This coalition included MP?s from different parties. Under dora, the government introduced a number of measures to ?deliver the goods?. One of the first problems the government faced was the shortage of skilled workers in key industries. Lloyd George tried to force skilled workers to stay where they were needed instead of working where they could get the best pay. Another key element of Lloyd George?s programme was to introduce women into the workforce. Despite the disagreement of trade unions Lloyd George and the government went ahead with this. Women had to agree to work for lower wages than men, despite constant resistance from trade unions who thought that male wages would end up being reduced. Trade unions refused to co-operate until women agreed that the women would be pain the same as men and would leave when the men came back. At the same time munitions factories were opened to help solve the munitions crisis, which also employed a large number of women. By the end of 1915 the munitions situation had improved and the British army was well supplied with munitions for the rest of the war. Another way in which civilians were affected is that at times they weren?t getting enough food. Under dora, the government made sure that they were at least given enough food; it took over land and used it for farm production. In April 1917, the food supply in Britain was in crisis. The Germans were sinking 1 in 4 of British food ships and Britain had very short supply of what was left. Due to this, prices rose and the rich bought all they could and sometimes more than they needed. The government introduced a range of measures to tackle this problem, most significantly voluntary rationing. However, none of these methods were successful in reducing food shortages. So in early 1918, compulsory rationing was introduced which included sugar, butter, meat and beer. There were stiff penalties for anyone caught breaking the rules. On the whole rationing was welcomed as a fairer way to share the available food. The government also controlled the newspapers to make sure that ?all news was good news?. From the start of the war, all bad news was strictly controlled. When the battleship hms Audacious was sunk in 1914, it was simply not reported. It was not until 1916 that the government allowed approved journalists to go to the front to report on the war. These reports focused only on good news. The government also censored letters from soldiers at the front. The soldiers sometimes chose to censor themselves as they did not want to report bad news back to their families and cause worry. Children were also aimed at by the government. Toys, games, comics and books were all aimed at making children support the war effort. These books and magazines sold well since many of them continued to sell after the war in the 1920?s and 1930?s. The end of the war in November 1918 came as a relief with a sense of triumph. People were all too aware by then of the human and financial cost of the war in Britain and in other countries, and were desperate to rebuild their lives.

The Effect of World War I on Civilians 8.2 of 10 on the basis of 3902 Review.