War and the transformation of British society 1903-28 - Booklet 3

The home front and social change: DORA, Censorship, proaganda, recruitment, rationing and the part women played by women.

  • Created by: Charlotte
  • Created on: 01-06-12 12:18

DORA (Defence of the realm act)

During the first wolrd war, the Goverment imposed regulations and censorship that limited what people could do or say. DORA was passed in August 1914.

It's list of restrications grew as the war went on. DORA's measures were intended to provide for the efficient goverment of the country and to make sure that no help was given to the enemy.

Measures included:

  • Allowing the goverment to take over any factory or workshop
  • To censory newspapers
  • To limit the hours pubs could open
  • And even to water down beer
  • No one was allowed to talk about naval or military matters in a public place.
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Censorship and propaganda

To imporve morale newspapers were encouraged to print stories of British and Allied heroism and bravery, giving the impression that the war was being fought with huge successes.

  • No pictures of dead soldiers were allowed to be printed. However the long lists official deaths and of missing soldiers increasingly showed how biased the reporting was.
  • Propaganda = pamplets, posters, newspaper reports and adverts. These gave the impression that the Germans were evil, and the British should be proud to take part in the British defeat.
  • From the Autumn of 1914 - Stories circulated about wicked and cruel acts in Belgium - Women had been shot for no reason. babies had been stabbed with bayonet's and Nun's had been *****. Newspapers in France, Britian and the USA circulated the stories and they exaggerated the extent to the suffering for propaganda purposes.
  • The Germans were nicknamed the 'Huns' - the name of barbaric people.
  • Only later in the war did the goverment begin to allow a more realistic picture to be presented. E.g Battle of the somme film was shown in cinemas.
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The armed forces rellied on volenteers. There was 175,000 volenteer recruits by the end of september 1914, and from then on an average of 125,000 a month. There were many reasons why so many men were keen to join up:

  • motivated by patriotism.
  • war seemed to promise adventure, in an age where there were few travel opportunities.
  • Many were simply escaping poverty and unemployment.

Men reluctant to join the armed forces were shamed into doing so:

  • In London some women handed out white feathers (symbolised cowardice) to men not in uniform.
  • Public speakers whipped up enthusiasm in the crowd, with men encouraged to sign up there and then while influenced by the excitment to the moment.

As war went on there was a shortage of recruits, this was due to the fact that there was limited men eligible to volenteer and because the horrors of war were beggining to come clear.

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Recruiment continued...

As war went on there was a shortage of recruits, this was due to the fact that there was limited men eligible to volenteer and because the horrors of war were beggining to come clear.

So in January 1916 - the Goverment passed an act allowing all single men between the ages of 18 and 41 to be called up for the active service.

This was extended to all married men of the same age group later in the year.

Conscientious objectors

Men that refused to join up, because they thought it was wong to fight and kill were known as conscientious objectors. The media and a good part of the public had had little sympathy for such men - they were seen as cowards.

Some conscientious objectors were prepared to work in the war effort in a non-fighting role, but others refused to have anything to have anything to do with the war, and were imprisoned on the assumption that they could be spies.

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At the beggining of the war, there was a shortage of food as many people rushed to stockpile supplies. After this initial panic, supplies settled down for a while, helped by the measures taken by the goverment under DORA. However Britain rellied on imports for much of it's food, and German submarine operations effectivley blocked much of this supply. The situation became difficuilt in 1917 when German submarines sucessfully attacked supply ships crossing the Atlantic. In response the Goverment tried to operate a volentary rationing scheme with the limits on bread, meat and sugar. However this was unsucessful and the shortages continued.

Desperate attempts were made to grow more food. Grassed areas were turned into vegtable patches as were public parks. In fact over two and a half million acres of land were ploughed up for growing vegtables or keeping animals. Much of the work in the fields was undertaken by the new Women's land Army because a large proportion of farm workers, had volenteered to fight at the war front.

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Rationing continued...

In spite of all the goverment's attempts to solve the food shortages, a limited form of rationing was introducted in 1918. Meat, suagr, butter, cheese and margerine had to be obtained with a ration card at the butcher's and grocer's shop with which a person was registered. Each person was allowed:

  • 15 ounces (425g) of meat per week
  • 5 ounces (140g) of bacon
  • 4 ounces (110g) of butter or margerine.

This rationing system worked and food queues disappeared. It is also claimed that at the end of the war poorer people were healthier than they had been at the beggining of the war, partly as a result of getting a fairer share of healthy food through rationing.

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The part played by women

Women before the war

Before the war started, British women mostly accepted the role given to them - that is, to look after the hime and bring up children.

Women and the war

In 1914, the war started to have a major impact on the posistion of women in the British society, and on their attituide towards themselves. During the war about five million men joined the army. With so many men away fighting (and nearly one million men not returning alive), there was a huge shortage of workers, especially in the jobs traditionally done by men.

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The part women played in the war

Women during the war worked in the following areas:

  • War work: In factories and steel mills; driving buses; building ships; or in agriculture in the Women's Land Army.
  • New war work: Large numbers of women worked in munitions factories, making bullets and shells for ammunition. The number increased from 200,000 in 1914 to nearly one million in 1918. The work was highly dangerous; sometimes there were major explosions. The chemicals that women worked with tended to turn their skin yellow, and they were nicknamed 'Canaries'. Industrial work was well paid compared with before 1914. In munition factories women could earn about £4 per week, compared with £2 a month as a domestic servant.
  • The armed services: Women were allowed to join up from April 1917 onwards. About 100,000 joined the following organisations: Women's Army Auxiliary corps (WAAC), Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS or Wrens), Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF).
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The part women played in the war

Most of the women who entered the armed forces took over clerical and administrative duties normally done by men, releasing men to fight at the fornt.

  • Nurses: About 23,000 women volenteered to serve as nurses close to the front line, often working in France or Belgium.
  • Volenteer Aid Detachment: This provided cooks, kitchen maids, laundry workers and drivers.

The workdone by many women affected their status. Many were receiving their own wage packet for the first time, making them financially independent. Some adapted their social behaviour and changed their style of dress, even daring to wear trousers. Others were willing to go out on their own, even going into pubs drinking alcohol and smoking in public.

During the war, the suffragetes suspended their campaign of violence and fully co-operated with the war effort. Increasingly women were seen by men as sensible, and more capable to making decisions.

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The part women played in the war

Women at the end of the war

The loyalty and service of women during the war was recongised by the all male British Goverment. In 1918 the Representation of the People Act gave the vote to women over the aged of 30 ( Men could vote at the age of 21).

In 1919 women were allowed to do jury service, become lawyers and join the civil service.

Only in 1928 did women get the vote of the same terms of men.

On the other hand, when the war ended, women were forced to give up many of the jobs they had taken over. It was thought to be only fair that returning soldiers were treated as hero's and given priority.

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