Why Did British Men Enlist in the British Army in 1914?
On the outbreak of war in August 1914, it was clear that more soldiers were needed. On 7th August, Lord Kitchener began a recruiting campaign calling for volunteers aged 19-30 to join up. At first this was very successful with an average of 33,000 joining every day. Three weeks later Kitchener raised the recruiting age to 35 and by the middle of September over 500,000 had volunteered. Men signed, for a number of reasons. This included patriotism, guilt, money and even adventure. Many had never been abroad, and used the war as an excuse to travel and have some fun.
One reason why the men signed up was because many thought it would be an easy ride, and joined to see the world, and have an adventure. They used mothers and girlfriends to persuade the men to join, by using the White Feather modus operandi and the Mothers Union, even issuing posters stating ”Is your best boy wearing khaki”, the poster stated that if he was not wearing it, he does not want to protect the country or you, that suggested they weren’t would not be worthy of their girlfriends, encouraging girlfriends to force their ‘best boys’ to join the army. This made the men feel guilty, and as a result they signed up to fight. The Mothers Union produced posters to persuade their sons to join. ”On his return, hearts would beat high with thankfulness and pride”.
The mothers urged their sons to join to also hold a sense of pride that their sons were fighting for Great Britain, instead of staying at home. In August 1914, Admiral Charles Fitzgerald founded the Order of the White Feather. With the support of leading writers, the organisation encouraged women to give out white feathers to young men who had not joined the British Army. One woman remembered her father, Robert Smith, being given a feather: “That night he came home and cried his heart out. My father was no coward, but had been reluctant to leave his family. He was thirty-four and my mother, who had two young children, had been suffering from a serious illness. Soon after this incident my father joined the army.” The idea was to make the people who received the feathers unpatriotic and this caused them to feel guilty and in some cases leave there family straight away and go to join the forces. Though eventually this was frowned upon as harassment by the police and it led to those being caught handing out these feathers to be prosecuted.
At the beginning of the war the army had strict specifications about who could become soldiers. Men joining the army had to be 5ft 6in tall and a chest measurement of 35 inches. By May 1915 soldiers only had to be 5ft 3in and the age limit was raised to 40. In July the army agreed to the formation of ‘Bantam’ battalions, composed of men between 5ft and 5ft 3in in height. This was a reason why men who fell under the height restrictions at first were able to join, they may have wanted to join but could not, but with the restrictions being lowered it would have encouraged them to join up.
In August 1914, the British government discovered that Germany had a propaganda agency. So David Lloyd George (Chancellor of the Exchequer) was given the task of setting up the British War Propaganda Bureau (WPB).
Many were convinced that the war was going to be an easy ride. Many signed up because they thought it would be over by Christmas, as Britain was a powerful country. In ”Goodbye to all” by Robert Graves explains ” the papers predicted a very short war……over by Christmas at outside”. Another example of a person who thought the war would be over quickly was ‘Private Godfrey Buxton, Royal Army Medical Corps’ – he said in his article ”I’d had one year at Cambridge and then volunteered for the army. We were quite clear that the Germany would be defeated by the 7th of October when we would go back to Cambridge.
Patriotism was one of the main influences as to why men signed up in 1914. The government used military marching bands and flags to engage the public, and to attract them to the war. George Coppard joined the Royal West Surrey Regiment at the age of sixteen, on 27th August, 1914. “Military bands blared out their martial music in the main streets of Croydon.” This created a sense of pride in young men. “This was too much for me to resist and as if drawn by a magnet. I knew I had to enlist straight away.” Young men were particularly inspired by the Union Jack flag, and the military uniforms. A propaganda poster showing patriotism is the “Enlist Now” poster. The poster shows a soldier pointing to a picture of the English countryside. The line reads: “Isn’t this worth fighting for?” The poster is asking the reader to sign up to protect the beautiful countryside. Many more men were influenced because they saw others signing up in large numbers. Lionel Ferguson joined the British army in Liverpool: “What sights I saw on my way up to Frazer Street: a queue of men over two miles long in the Haymarket.” As men joined up in their thousands, men who didn’t could have been influenced by a sense of guilt.
However, younger men signed up with their friends from their village, often known as ”Pals battalions”, for example Edward Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby, organized a battalion in Liverpool. Within two days, fifteen hundred men from Liverpool had signed up. Speaking at a rally in August 1914, Lord Derby said, “This should be a battalion of pals, a battalion in which friends from the same office will fight shoulder to shoulder for the honour of Britain and the credit of Liverpool.” Within the next few days three more battalions were raised in Liverpool. This showed that the ”Pals” battalion idea was a good idea to help raise patriotic beliefs. The men who joined up had similar backgrounds and occupations, they may have been a battalion who consisted of mainly contractors, a famous battalion that was constructed was the Scottish battalion from Liverpool, and these men were all Scottish and wore kilts in battle.
Men also may have signed up for the money, they were paid A kings shilling, a shilling and sixpence a day, encouraging men to join because their wives also received money and extra depending on how many children they had, this was a benefit for fighting, but if you died in battle – without insurance and benefits, that is why the pay was so high, but some people desperate for the money would have ignored that thinking again the war would end quickly and that they were impervious to harm because they were over confident this is shown in a source where women who had more children received up to 10 shillings extra per a week.
More importantly, men were encouraged to sign up, because of the brutal devastation that Germany caused in Belgium. This was known as the Rape of Belgium, a series of tragic ‘supposed to have occurred’ events that circulated as a rumour around Britain. Men felt they needed to avenge the deaths of innocent Belgian people, looking for revenge. In the book, “Memoirs of an infantry Officer”, Lt. S. Sassoon wrote that “the newspapers informed us that German soldiers crucified Belgium babies. Stories of that kind weren’t taken for granted; to have disbelieved them would have been unpatriotic.”
After the news broke out, propaganda posters drew Germans as Huns, or gorillas. They were shown as savages, inhuman and immoral. This sparked further controversy, and as a result, men signed up in their thousands. There were also posters published depicting the A depiction of a German soldier standing on the body of a dead woman and about to step onto a baby. ‘Gott mit uns’ [God is with us] is written on his chest belt. More bodies lie on the ground in front of burning buildings. A vulture flies above in an orange sky. This image would have persuaded people to join the forces because it was a depiction of injustice and if you had justice in you, you would join to prevent the Germans from massacring Belgium even more. Though this image may not have been true and just propaganda to encourage people to join, without televisions there was no real proof of these events except word of mouth and rumours.
Young men were not always patriotic. Some even joined because they felt guilty. Propaganda posters often portrayed the idea of guilt. “Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?”, is an example of making soldiers feeling guilty, as they had feelings of fear and embarrassment holding them back from participating in the war. The poster shows two children asking their father, who is sitting on a chair, if he had taken part in the war. This implies that the children look up to the father. The father has a look of guilt in his eyes, and viewers, especially young men, would not want this to happen to them. As a result, men joined the army in large numbers. Also like the White Feather method people also sent abusive letters to people who had not joined the army….. A taunting letter forwarded to a railway porter who had not yet enlisted… It reads: ”Dear Mr. E. A. Brookes seeing that you cannot be a man not to Join the army. We offer you an invitation to join our Girl Scouts as washer up, ……..Scout mistress………Bath Girl Scouts”. The objective of all this pressure was to push the people receiving the intimidation to feel guilty and join up right away; these men were probably less patriotic if patriotic at all because they refused to help the country.
It is clear there are many reasons why the British forces needed more men, but through unforeseen circumstances the British underestimated the German forces. The reasons why the British men joined the army included: ”patriotism, adventure, guilt, more money, peer pressure and many more”.
Describe the employment opportunities for women in Britain between 1914 and 1918.
The role of women was very basic prior to the war, with jobs mainly occupied by men. Women were forced to work in their homes with household duties and many high profiled professions before the war such as: doctors, lawyers, teachers and manual labourers were jobs dominated by men. So from 1914-1918, with many men enlisting in the army, this left plenty of vacant jobs that were waiting to be occupied. This led to many women taking over for the men working in places such as: factories, agricultural works such as farming, jobs in the emergency services such as the police and it gave women who were trained and qualified as teachers, lawyers and even doctors to get a chance to break in to the profession and provide support for the civilians. It meant that women could help the country by joining the women’s navy and army – it was a way to give women a sense of patriotism and a feel that they were helping the country no matter what background or class they were from.
Munitions were a key part of the war effort back at home. About 900,000 women were incorporated in making shells, guns and aircraft for the Allied forces. Under the Munitions of War Act of 1915, the government introduced a policy of dilution into munitions factories – meaning women were able to work in the factories without sexism and the sex of the person being taken in to account when applying for the job. The aim was to increase productivity levels and output of munitions by employing vastly greater numbers of unskilled women and men who were not in the army, in munitions factories and industries. Many of these women who could not previously find work before the war worked in large munitions factories, and most were working-class. They did a wide range of jobs, such as making shells, assembling detonators, polishing the time fuses and shells, and filling the shells with gunpowder and making ammunition.
Life was difficult in factories during the war, here is what life was like in the factories, an example is given here by: Mabel Lethbridge, a munitions worker, recounting her experience of 1916, “They were upset and miserable because there has been so many explosions, and I think they were justified…,” this basically shows us that working in munitions factories was dangerous and potentially very hazardous. However, as with most of these occupations, there were advantages and disadvantages with working with munitions. It may have been one of the most dangerous jobs, however it is justified by the fact that it was the highest paid job , but there amount of at least 200 munitions women were either killed as a result of explosions or died from TNT poisoning, but the exact number will never be known.
The most important change in factory life was the introduction of the Lady welfare Supervisor was a middle or upper class woman with a wide range of duties. These included hiring female labour, dealing with workers’ housing problems, keeping order and discipline at work and telling women workers how to dress and behave around the working premises. The government believed that the introduction of lady Welfare Supervisors was very successful: welfare supervision had, “…tended towards creating a better class factory girl’, Ministry of Labour paper, November 1917. By the end of the war, there were more than 1,000 Lady Welfare Supervisors operating munitions factories which showed the success of the jobs they were conducting.
This gave women self respect, discipline, confidence and a sense of independence. Women also started participating in a range of jobs in the transport industry. By 1918, 117,200 women worked in transport, as bus and tram conductresses, railway ticket collectors, signal women, porters and district examiners. The transport industry was one of the largest wartime employers of British women. Before the war 18,200 women worked in transport. Most of these were railway cleaners, attendants and clerks. This offers an unwitting insight into the division of labour between men and women in the railway industry during the war. Though large numbers of women were employed as station staff, far fewer were allowed to work as train drivers. Women transport workers faced competition from both the men they were replacing. Trade unions made agreements with their employers to protect, men’s jobs for when they returned from war. For example, 3,065 women were replaced instead of men as engine cleaners, and 1,972 as ticket collectors.
Although, working in transport was a reasonably well paid job, women still had to deal with harassment from male colleagues. A conductress on the trains in Southampton, for example, remembered how one driver would deliberately drive very fast: “The tram used to sway an’ he’d turn round to me and he’d give me such a grin. He knew I wasn’t used to that”, showing the still lack of respect for women in many industries. Also, in most areas of paid work, women had to accept lower wages than men. When women were accepted as workers on tramways and the bus services, however, the principle of “equal pay for equal work” was agreed upon. This meant that if women did the same work as the men they were paid the same.
As in munitions, most of the women who worked as bus and tram conductresses and for the railways were working class. Usually middle and upper class women were only employed as supervisors and inspectors due to their more formal upbringing, education and wealthier background. Let us now look at work that was done mainly by middle and upper class women.
Many middle and upper class women also became nurses, worked directly for the army, or joined one of the women’s services. Some of these women had a chance to work abroad. Others worked in military hospitals and army bases in Britain. Life was not easy for such women. Few had worked before the war. Now they were working very long day and night shifts. As Angela, countess of Limerick, said, “We never stopped for one single instant”. The Countess worked as a Voluntary Aid Detachment was an organisation set up to provide help for the sick and wounded, in case of an enemy invasion.
In 1914, the Headmistresses’ Association suggested the formation of a female police force to control the behaviour of young women and encourage structural objectives for women to commit to rather than petty criminal offences. As a result, approximately 2,000 women patrols were created. Some of their regular tasks were to patrol parks and cinemas. Margaret Damer Dawson, Secretary of the International Congress of Animal Protection Societies, was another who was concerned about the behaviour of young women. She formed the Women’s Police Volunteers (WPV). Dawson’s proposal was also accepted because the women in the police forces were willing to work without pay. The WPV changed their name to the Women’s Police Service, which finally became the Women’s Auxiliary Service in 1920 after the war. This was a break through, as it was the first time women had a position of authority, and it was the first time that they could enforce the law.
In January 1917, the government announced the establishment and founding of a new voluntary service called the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC). The plan was for these women to serve as clerks, telephonists, waitresses, cooks, and as instructors in the use of gas masks. It was decided that women would not be allowed to hold commissions and so that those in charge were given the ranks of controller and administrator. Helen Gwynne-Vaughan was chosen for the important job as the WAAC’s Chief Controller-(Overseas).
The WAAC uniform consisted of: a khaki cap, khaki jackets and skirts. Regulations stated that the skirt had to be no more than twelve inches above the ground. To maintain a high standard of fitness, all members of the WAAC had to do physical exercises every day. This included hockey and dancing. Women in the WAAC were not given full military status. The women enrolled rather than enlisted and were punished for breaches of discipline by civil rather than military courts. Women in the WAAC were divided into officials (officers), forewomen (sergeant), assistant forewomen (corporals) and workers (privates). Between January 1917 and the Armistice over 57,000 women served in the WAAC.
Although not on combat duties, members of the WAAC had to endure shelling from heavy artillery and bombing raids by German aircraft. During one attack in April, 1918, nine WAACs were killed at the Etaples Army Camp. British newspapers claimed that it was another example of a German atrocity but Helen Gwynne-Vaughan was quick to point out at a press conference that as the WAAC were in France as replacements for soldiers, the enemy was quite entitled to try and kill them. This would have given the women in the WAAC a great sense of patriotism and pride to be fighting for their country.
Vast numbers of women got low paying jobs in agriculture and farming. This was due to the fact that agriculture was a necessity due to the food shortages in England caused b y German U-Boats. The Board of Trade sent agricultural organizers around the country in an effort to persuade male workers to accept women as workers. By 1917, there were over 260,000 women working as farm labourers. “Her aid, too, was at first pressed on the farmers in the teeth of a good deal of sluggish and bantering prejudice and opposition.” David Lloyd George, War Memoirs (1938). David George’s quote further suggests that at an early stage, women were not taken very seriously, and were open to prejudice and bantering from their male colleagues. The agricultural industry was the lowest paying job. More so, it did not make the employees feel very patriotic, but they were aiding the country in helping feed civilians which was indeed patriotic in its own right.
However, many women signed up to do it because it was the safest and most hazard free job. They did not have to worry about handling TNT, or working with detonators. Many poorer women went into hard labour jobs like this. There wasn’t much change for them. The Land army did every job one could do on a field. They had plant and harvest wheat; they milked cows and delivered the milk by pony and cart to local houses; they picked sprouts; they dug potatoes; they tended flocks of sheep; looked after pigs and poultry; they picked fruit. There were specialists who were trained in rat-catching. On the outbreak of war, the average wage for a male worker was 38 shillings. This was still well below the national average of 80 shillings a week. Thanks to Lady Denman, Land Girls were awarded a minimum wage, but this was even less than their male counterparts would receive. They earned just 28 shillings a week, half of which was typically deducted for board and lodgings. More so, the farm work was very physical, and women had to work long hours. They were expected to work 48 hours a week in winter and 50 hours a week in summer, but most girls worked many more, especially during the harvest. The work was particularly hard on women who came from the cities. They were not accustomed to physical labour, like their country counterparts.
In 1909 it was decided to form Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) to provide medical assistance to soldiers. By the summer of 1914 there were over 2,500 Voluntary Aid Detachments in Britain. Of the 74,000 VADs in 1914, two-thirds were women and girls. Most of the women stayed in military hospitals and in army barracks. However, a few were given the opportunity to travel to France, assisting wounded soldiers near the front line. Many women VADs worked as assistant nurses, ambulance drivers and cooks. VAD hospitals were opened in most large towns in Britain. The fact that women were now on the front line, and helping at home, providing aid to the wounded would have made them feel patriotic.
In conclusion, there were many types of jobs that were available for women during the period of 1914-1918 and each job offered its own unique status in society and a unique opportunity. In most cases, each job has its advantages and disadvantages, it would either be very dangerous, but at the same time be a very well paid job and offer a lot of independence for the women or very minimal risk, low paying and a regular job for women. This gave a chance for the more upper class women to step out of their higher class lifestyle. It also allowed women to be patriotic about their work. It sends out the message that you don’t have to be on the front line to contribute to your country and that during war to keep a stable economy for your country everybody who contributes aides the population greatly.
In what ways did the attitude of the soldiers and civilians change towards the war and the enemy between 1914 and 1918?
The main things that caused attitudes to change negatively throughout the war for soldiers included: trench warfare, the conditions in trenches, the introduction of chlorine and mustard gas. The events that contributed positively to the morale of soldiers included: America joining the war and the invention of the tank. For civilians the negative consisted of: The execution of Edith Cavell and the sinking of the Lusitania and bombing raids. Things that may have contributed in negative and positive ways would be: rationing. The attitudes of soldiers changed drastically as the war progressed, it had its various ups and downs throughout the course of world war one. From positive at the beginning to negative towards the end as a series of unforeseen weaponry from the Germans caused trouble for the British soldiers but as the war came to a close the introduction of the tank and deployment of the American forces on the western front changed the attitudes back to optimistic and helped us to gain victory during world war one.
In the trenches for the soldiers morale was very low. This was caused by many gruelling problems such as trench foot – a disease that caused the feet of many soldiers to erode away due to the cold conditions constantly at work in the trenches; this caused a rise in casualties and lowered morale with more and more people suffering. There was a stalemate during world war one where by both enemies were neither gaining nor losing any ground to each other this would mean weeks on end sitting in the trenches in freezing conditions – this being the cause of trench foot.
One man recalls very well: Arthur savage was asked about his memories of the war the western front: “my memories are of sheer terror and horror from seeing men sobbing because they had trench foot which had turned gangrenous. They knew they were going to lose a leg.” A sinister side of life in the trenches but the fact that men realised later on how badly they were at risk would also have caused a change in attitudes towards the war as they realised the risk was getting greater and greater by each passing day. Other things in the trenches that would have lowered morale was the constant irritation by lice in the trenches, they were enough to drive soldiers mad with the constant itching and irritation, and the numerous numbers of mice which would bit people and the wounds would become infected and cause terrible problems for soldiers and increased the chance of limbs having to be amputated because of septic wounds.
Trench warfare was limited and was a slow progression of war which showed little results in many circumstances except when successfully used for example by the Canadians at ‘Vimy Ridge’, when they used a network of underground trenches to out manoeuvre the German Forces, spending long periods in trenches with very little to do except wait for the possible attack and a somewhat untimely doom lingering around you would again change attitudes towards the war.
Also there were dead bodies scattered and lying on the ground in No Man’s Land and in the trenches, the sheer smell of your comrades dead bodies rotting around you is enough to make even the toughest of men quiver in the overwhelming pressure of war and bring morale down, most soldiers would not have expected so many casualties so their attitudes at the beginning of the war may have been that: ‘we will go kill a few Huns and be back in England in one peace before you know it’, the members of pals battalions were pleased to be fighting alongside their friends, though when their friends perished in the blight of war, their attitude would completely change and the ferocity of war would deeply frustrate them and how they could not do anything to protect their companions.
When gas warfare was deployed and introduced by the Germans it had an astounding impact on way the war was progressing and the vast numbers of soldiers leaving the front line with: short term and even long term blindness, scar, bad burn all over their body. Soldiers had to be very agile and quick in the trenches and put their gas masks on for safety and protection otherwise if they could not successfully get it on they would bear the near full force of the gas attack and either: die or be severely injured.
The first gas that was used on the battle fields was known as Chlorine Gas – it was first used on the British in the second battle of Ypres on April 22nd 1915. It had a downside which was very light and floated around the battle fields meaning it would travel backwards to the German forces as well. The effects of chlorine gas included: its pungent metallic taste which caused burning to the back of the throat, the chest and eyes. It was thought as not being powerful enough so the Germans tried to develop a new form of gas.
The Germans then developed a much more powerful gas called Mustard gas. It was first used by the Germans at the battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917. The British then sought out to develop their own mustard gas and first used it in 1918 when breaking the Hindenburg Line. With mustard gas the effects did not become obvious or apparent for up to twelve hours. But then it began to rot the body, within and without. The skin blistered, the eyes became extremely painful and nausea and vomiting began. Although the worst thing that could happen was: the gas attacked the bronchial tubes, stripping off the mucus membrane. The pain was almost beyond endurance and breathing in specific circumstances became so difficult that most cases had to be strapped to their beds to stop violent unprovoked outbursts. Death took from anything around four weeks to six weeks. This period being an unbearable amount of time and death would be a blessing if the extent of the gas was substantial. Many soldiers suffering would have preferred to pass away than bear the pain of your body rotting from the inside; this would have a negative impact on the attitudes of soldiers to the war.
Many men could not bear life on the western front and purposely injured themselves to get sent back home for a few weeks – examples of this were to shoot yourself in the foot, a area that would heal and meant that it would prevent you from fighting. The commanders of the army caught on to this and decided that any men who were found guilty of this crime were to be court marshalled.
Among the civilians who helped soldiers that were badly injured was: Nurse Vera Britain was one of the several nurses who looked after the soldiers who had been gassed, she had this to say: “to say nothing of 10 cases of mustard gas in its early stages – could see the poor things all burnt and blistered all over with great suppurating blisters, with blind eyes – sometimes temporally, sometimes permanently – all sticky and stuck together, and always fighting for breath, their voices a whisper” A saddening speech of what the soldiers had to endure on the front line, lowering morale and the fact that mustard gas was only employed later on during the war would again change attitudes because it was another devastating problem for the soldiers to have to bear, meaning more people would have wished they never joined up in the first place.
Towards the end of the war the United States of America joined the war on the 6th April 1917, to help and aide the allied forces. This caused a monumental boost in morale, as the British soldiers were in dire need of all the help and support they could get. This was cause for hope and optimistic virtues when it resulted in a change of circumstances during the war. Sergeant-Major Richard Tobin of the Hood Battalion from the Royal Naval Division said: “When we were out of the line we used to stand by the road and watch the fresh, strong, plump and new American battalions swing by. They waved and laughed and shouted. Our boys stood by the side of the road and grinned back – but we wondered, “Did they know? Could they do it? Would they do it?”. Later the Americans proved to be a success by boosting morale, aiding the French forces further south to keep the Germans at bay at ultimately helping the tide of war turn in favour of the allied forces.
The biggest morale booster was when the invention of the tank came about. The tank was a very key and important invention as it was a method of bypassing trench warfare. It meant that a tank could climb over the trenches and navigate across in to No Man’s Land and fairly easily break through to the Germans front line trenches. Captain Douglas Wimberley said: “The wire at Cambrai was about four feet high and fifteen yards wide, but the tanks that had gone in front of us had ploughed through it like a ship in the sea, and we had no difficulty at all in following their tracks.” Deployment of the tank gave the British troops a massive advantage because it meant that the tanks could take out the first line of trenches and soldiers and then the remaining soldiers could attempt to kill any remaining German soldiers after the tanks had destroyed most of the Germans front line.
The tanks also put a huge deal of fear into the Germans and making it potentially easier for the British to shoot them: “When it became really light it was a wonderful sight. We could see the lines of tanks ahead of us going down the slope towards the Grand Ravine and the lines of Jocks slowly moving along behind them. As we passed, there were numbers of Germans in every direction. The ones near us were really just trying to surrender, but further down the slopes we could see quite a lot more running about trying to escape from the tanks.” The tank gave the British soldiers a massive boost in moral as it made the Germans fear the British: “As a great number of Boche came straight towards our machine-guns with their hands up, and it would have been absolute sheer massacre to have killed them.”
A key incident during the war was on Christmas Eve 1914, when soldiers from both British and German trenches met up for a game of football in no man’s land. Along with this many soldiers traded valued goods with each other such as: cigarettes and alcohol, with many British soldiers eager to swap anything for German bully beef. Though his unarmed men crossed over into No Man’s Land, Captain Reginald Hobbs remained in his trench on the Western Front fearing it was a ploy by the Germans to entice his company to certain death. “I warned my sentries to be extra on the lookout because I don’t trust….so I sent a few of my fellows out to see – they walked up to the groups, shook hands and chatted in a most friendly way…”, to his astonishment he later walked out of the trenches with a few other members of his regiment, to find British and German soldiers conversing with each other normally and singing and dancing with each other and generally enjoying the holiday. What was described by Bernie Felstead of the Royal Welch Fusiliers as being: ” the Germans probably were already out of their trench before us…a football was produced … but no one could re-call from where”. He also added that: “It was not a game as such – more of a kick-around…could have been 50 on each side for all I know…I don’t know how long it lasted, probably half-an-hour.”
This truce resembled not soldiers but civilians enjoying the spirit of Christmas, soldiers were free for if only still one day, and it showed war was not an issue in these soldiers’ lives if only for one day then that day was Christmas. It would have changed the attitudes of war greatly showing that even through all the bloodshed and killing the soldiers from both sides are really no different from each other…..it was a truce for one day but in the thick of war without a single shot being fired on that day probably was a relief for most soldiers present to relish the chance of a truce for a short amount of time…… The truce ended when a British major ordered the British soldiers back to their trench with a reminder that “they were there to kill the Hun not to make friends with them.”
The mood of Christmas friendliness was shortly broken by the firing of British artillery. Even though the truce occurred, the concept of a truce the following year was out of the question as to many soldiers had perished and the general bitterness between the Germans and British was too strong for this sort of truce to occur again and with the employment of poisonous gas and the and the introduction of aerial bombardment the ploy was more and more likely. This was a tension relieving point during the first few months of the war and changed many soldiers attitudes to what seem liked a never ending time in the trenches.
For civilians life was changing quite impedingly as women had started working and many men: husbands, sons, fathers, brothers were lost in the war and it had a great impact on the lives and families of the soldiers and civilians working in the economy. Then came the significant event that was the execution of Edith Cavell – a nurse who was helping men who were injured or ill escape back home to England so that they were safe from the war and further harm. The Germans realise the extent of what she was doing and executed her. The British saw this as an opportunity to make men want to enlist. An international propaganda campaign was quickly organised to publicise the latest example of German wartime brutality. This British recruitment poster unashamedly uses a picture of Edith Cavell, beneath the emotive and inspiring caption ‘Murdered by the Huns’, to encourage men to enlist for military service. This poster would make men feel passionate and encourage them in to fighting in the war to stop the atrocities and fight for all the women who were in potential danger.
Propaganda played a big role in the civilian’s attitudes. There were still posters being produced of how Belgium was being badly treated for example the rape of Belgium poster were still published. This changed the opinion of the Germans for civilians. However these atrocities did not always occur they were mostly made up by the government so that more British men would enlist but this would also have led to an increasing number of casualties.
Cartoon posters were created of the German U-boats to show how they were obliterating innocent people’s lives: “This ought to make them jealous in the sister service. Belgium saw nothing better than this”. This caption creates empathy for the people of Belgium. They also depict the Germans as devils for the way they have been treating innocent people. The submarine has a specifically imprinted number on it – 666 – this being the number of the devil (Anti-Christ), as mentioned in the bible. This imagery of evil would be associated with the Germans this caused changes to form in the attitudes of the civilians against the Germans.
Zeppelins were German aircrafts which bombed many places in England during world war one, they had a notable success, they carried vast amounts of ammunition and bombs and were described as the contemporary aircraft of the time. The main use of the aircraft was reconnaissance over the North Sea. The first raid was on January 19th 1915, on the town of Great Yarmouth, the two zeppelins dropped twenty four, 50 kilogram high explosive bombs – leaving up to 10 killed and 20 injured, this was the first unprovoked attack on civilians and this would also have made a negative attitude impact on the war on behalf of the civilians other places that were bombed throughout the war included WAAC (Women’s Auxiliary Corps) bases.
During the war the German U-boats were sinking many ships and vessels going towards England, these ships were carrying food and supplies which were necessities in England due to the increase in weaponry production. The Lusitania – a vessel travelling from Ireland to New York – was one of the main ships that was targeted and sunk on May 19th 1915, resulting in several men, women and children losing their lives. A threat was made by the U-boat commanders that if any ship was crossing anything adjacent of the British Isles it would be destroyed by the German U-Boats without a warning. This tragedy angered many Irish men and persuaded them to enlist into an Irish regiment so that they could avenge everyone that was lost because most of the passengers on the ship were Irish citizens immigrating to New York to escape the war. Also the sinking of the ship meant that the Irish citizen’s attitude towards the Germans would worsen due to their haphazard attack on the passenger ship.
The U-Boats sinking ships carrying supplies and the lack of men at home to work led to food shortages no matter how hard the women taking over for the men back at home tried to maintain the agricultural industries. This led to food being rationed; each person would receive a rations booklet from the government. This meant that many remaining rich people could not buy various fine foods. The disadvantages were less food for people, but an advantage was that many people who could not afford to buy much food would receive slightly more than before, this being beneficial for them. Rationing would have put more negative attitudes in people due to the food being less, meaning more people would be calling for the war to have ended promptly.
Rumors were rife around the battlefields that the German nurses were torturing several British soldiers by not giving them the water they needed, whereas several Red Cross nurses were caring for German and British troops – this showed that even though in the heat of a war the civilians had nothing against the soldiers and aided them. This affected the public because they wanted their men to do well and if they were injured they would want them healed. This also engaged their opinion towards the Germans as they would dislike them for not giving the British soldiers water. Also it makes British women want to join the Red Cross so that they can help out the British soldiers by enlisting more care so that the German nurses torture the British soldiers anymore.
This is evidently how the attitudes of civilians changed throughout the war, with each having their positive and negative views, the conditions of the war contributed negatively to attitudes of many soldiers and the civilians back home had to bear the brunt of the lack of experience in the British Forces, which caused many changes in the attitudes of soldiers – though ultimately with the positive views maintained by soldiers and civilians alike and the war was eventually won by the allied forces.