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Machines

  • In 1889, Great Britain adopted the principle that its navy must equal in size the two next-largest fleets combined.[1]
  • In 1906, the Dreadnought was created (armed with big guns)
  • In 1914, 29 Dreadnoughts were afloat in water and 13 were under construction[2]
  • July 1914- The British Royal Aircraft tests for its new RAF E5 light bomber aeroplane. The plane is not manoeuvrable and is mostly used as a test platform, especially for testing bombs and mechanisms.[3]
  • Winston Churchill, as the First Lord of Admiralty said on the power of the navy, “incomparably the greatest assemblage of naval power ever witnessed in the history of this world” on July 17, 1914[4]

*Mobilization for Britain was seen as an essential act of self-defence.

Relative Strengths of the Combatants in WWI[5]

Population (overseas empire) Potential Soldiers Military Expenditures

(1913-1914 millions of $)

Battleships in Service or being built Cruisers Submarines Merchant Ships (TONS)
Great Britain 45 million

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390 million

711,000 250 million 64 121 64 20 million
France 40 million

58 million

1, 250, 000 185 million 28 34 73 2 million
Italy 35 million

2 million

750, 000 50 million 14 22 12 1.75 million
Russia 164 million 1,200,000 335 million 16 14 29 750, 000
Belgium 7.5 million 180, 000 13.75 million
Serbia 5 million 195, 000 5.25 million
Austria -Hungary 50 million 810,000 110 million 16 12 6 1 million

Men and Women

  • War production became crucial to survive (agriculture output dropped contributing to food shortages) Prices rose rapidly and consumer hoarding strained distribution
  • Britain adopted conscription in 1916, a step which Winston Churchill considered “the greatest revolution in our system since the institution of feudalism under William the Conqueror”
  • In May 1916, all men aged between 18 and 41 were eligible for conscription – even married men who had been exempt in the January 1916 Conscription Act. [6]
  • Whereas in July 1914, 212,000 women worked in engineering and munitions, by 1918 the total was nearly a million[7].
  • Over 260,000 women also worked as farm labourers[8].

Government used paper money, rationing and central planning. In Great Britain, the government was granted unparallel power over the lives of civilians, requisioned supplies and forced industry.

War Cabinet

  • Lloyd George immediately formed his War Cabinet. In the first 235 days of its existence, the War Cabinet met 200 times. (This Cabinet took total responsibility for the war and on three occasions it became the Imperial War Cabinet when prime ministers from the Dominions attended it.)
  • Highly able young men were appointed to collect and collate data and to bypass slow moving government departments. (nicknamed ‘the garden suburb’)
  • These men gave- up-to-date, meaningful statistics. Example, data on merchant ships being sunk and farm production in the UK – an issue the War Cabinet had to address if the country was not to be starved into defeat.

DORA

The Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) of 1914 governed all lives in Britain during World War One. The Defence of the Realm Act was added to as the war progressed and it listed everything that people were not allowed to do in time of war. As World War one evolved, so DORA evolved. The first version of the Defence of the Realm Act was introduced on August 8th 1914. This stated that:

As the war continued and evolved, the government introduced more acts to DORA.

  • the government introduced British Summer Time to give more daylight for extra work
  • opening hours in pubs were cut
  • beer was watered down
  • Pubs could originally open between 5.30am and half past midnight – this was amended to midday to 2.30pm and 6.30 to 9.30pm daily[9]
  • In December 1916, the coalfields of South Wales were also taken under the government’s wing.
  • The government created ‘national factories’ to produce munitions – by the end of the war there were 218 of them. [10]
  • In 1916, in an effort to protect those who worked in munitions, the National Insurance Act was extended to them and to people who worked in industries closely linked to munitions.
  • Nurseries were built in or near factories to help the many thousands of mothers who joined the workforce of factories.

In 1918, rationing was introduced for certain foods (butter, eggs, sugar and meat). In April 1918, the government took over flour mills. The government also introduced powers that allowed it to take over land that was not being farmed properly or simply not being cultivated if it had farming potential. Two million acres of rough land was ploughed up and cultivated for grain crops.

Money

  • To finance the war, the government extended tax.
  • The 1913 budget allowed for the spending of £200 million. In 1918, the figure was £2,579 million. [11]
  • In decade before 1914, Britain had import surplus of 750 million dollars/year.
  • By 1914, Britain had invested 20 billion dollars in Foreign Investments. After WW1, lost 5 billion dollars of Foreign Investments.
  • Income tax was raised from 1s 8d in the £ to 6s in the £ (24 shillings in the £); surtax was paid on incomes of £2,000 reduced from £5,000.
  • Profits taxed at 80%

[1] Martin Chambers. The Western Experience. (New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 1987)

[2] Martin Chambers. The Western Experience. (New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 1987)

[3] Martin Chambers. The Western Experience. (New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 1987)

[4] Martin Chambers. The Western Experience. (New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 1987)

[5] 5…Albert M. Craig, et. al. Heritage of world Civilizations Volume 2: Since 1500, (Toronto: Prentice Hall, 1997) 939.

[6] Martin Chambers. The Western Experience. (New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 1987)

[7] Peter Craddick-Adams, “The Home Front in World War One”, BBC History Trails, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/trail/wars_conflict/home_front/the_home_front_01.shtml

[8] Peter Craddick-Adams, “The Home Front in World War One”, BBC History Trails, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/trail/wars_conflict/home_front/the_home_front_01.shtml

[9] Peter Craddick-Adams, “The Home Front in World War One”, BBC History Trails, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/trail/wars_conflict/home_front/the_home_front_01.shtml

[10] Martin Chambers. The Western Experience. (New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 1987)

[11] Martin Chambers. The Western Experience. (New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 1987)

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