1914 - 18

Military conduct of the war: initially Britain believed it would fight a
predominately naval war that would involve the destruction of the German
navy and the implementation of a tight blockade of Germany. Britain would
provide a British Expeditionary Force (BEF) initially of 100,000 men to aid the
French (& Belgians). It was envisaged that the French would do most of the
land fighting. The army would also be deployed where necessary across the
world (like the navy) to destroy Germany’s limited forces in its imperial
possessions. By mid-September 1914 the Germans had occupied nearly all of
Belgium together with substantial areas of NE France. The German advance
into France had been stopped; in fact the Germans had withdrawn,
regrouped and consolidated; digging in with trenches. Once dug in they were
impossible to dislodge and soon both sides were stalemated in almost
continuous trenches from the North Sea to Switzerland. Most attacking was
done by the French & British to dislodge the Germans from occupied
territory. It was soon realised that Britain would have to contribute more
manpower and by 1917 was taking the brunt of the fighting that hitherto had
been done by the French. Only in spring 1918 did the trench lines move
when the Germans nearly achieved a breakthrough. However the Germans
exhausted themselves and in August the allies started to advance; the
German high command realised that they could not win especially as their
allies were collapsing. They asked for an armistice in November; they were
however still standing on French & Belgian territory.

Naval conduct of the war: there was no great fleet action as originally
envisaged until the summer of 1916 when the battle of Jutland was fought.
The Germans inflicted heavier casualties than the British did and claimed a
victory. However their fleet never really ventured from port again and the
British continued to dominate the North Sea, enforcing an even stricter
blockade than previously. By the autumn of 1918 Germany was near to
starvation and many civilians were suffering from malnutrition. The Germans
implemented their own U Boat blockade of Britain. This was called off after
the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 for fear of USA entering the war.
However unrestricted submarine warfare was resumed in 1917; the Germans
gambling that they could starve Britain out before USA could effectively
involve itself in the war. Germany provoked USA into war but failed to starve
Britain out.

Political leadership in the war: Asquith, the Liberal PM, and his party were
temperamentally unsuited to fighting a major war. Only Lloyd George &
Churchill had the drive and commitment to fight a sustained and total war.
Initially it was envisaged that civilian life and government would continue
much as in peacetime and the war could be left to the War Office
(controlling the army) & the Admiralty (controlling the navy). Regular
servicemen, the reserves and new volunteers were all that were needed
apart from industry supplying them with the necessary arms and equipment.
However the government did introduce:
The Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) which was the key to the control of
nearly all aspects of life during the war.
Additionally Lloyd George (Chancellor of the Exchequer) took steps to
preserve Sterling as a strong internationally acceptable currency.
Later (1915) he secured the Treasury Agreements whereby the Trades
Unions allowed non-skilled labour including women into the engineering and
other war-related industries.
At the War Office Kitchener launched a spectacularly successful recruitment
campaign. Conscription was not necessary until 1916.

Following the Shells Scandal Asquith was obliged to form a coalition
government involving the Conservatives and Labour. Lloyd George was made
Minister of Munitions and using powers under DORA he expanded munitions
production (even if shell quality was sometimes poor). Gradually Asquith was
forced by the other parties, public opinion and circumstances to move the
country on to a war footing and introduce measures that forced people to do
what they did not want to do (eg conscription).

In December 1916 Lloyd George replaced Asquith as PM and immediately
started a more energetic and effective type of leadership. He worked with a
small dynamic War Cabinet: brought business and technical experts into
government; introduced convoys & rationing in response to the U Boat
campaign, Moreover he was sensitive to public opinion and realised the
importance of keeping up civilian morale: particularly in relation to rationing
and wage rises. He also took key industries (Coal mines & Railways under
government control).

Aspects you should be aware of:

The great recruiting campaign
Women & unskilled labour in the munitions industry
Female pressure to be usefully employed in war work
Women as bus drivers, conductresses, policewomen, in the armed services
and as nurses at the front
Morale and civilian reaction to casualties
Censorship & propaganda (controlled by the newspaper industry)
Public opinion & morale
Rationing and additional food production
Civilian losses due to German bombardment of east coast ports
(Scarborough, Hartlepool & Yarmouth) together with zeppelin bombing of
London & the south east
The democratisation of society: sacrifices by all classes; fewer servants &
less rich living by the wealthy (including the royal family); votes given to
remaining men over 21 & women over 30
The rebranding of the royal family so as to appear more British & not German