Breaking News! World War I
The Impact of World War I on England
Front and Center
England had been the center of the great British Empire before World War I. The war marks the beginning of the decline of that empire in the face of rising nationalist demands for independence throughout the non-European world.
England had also been the great creditor nation of the world, providing shipping and insurance services to the rest of the world. The cost of the war was so great that England consumed all of its credits and became heavily indebted to the United States. As a result of the war, the world's financial center shifted from England to the United States, from London to New York.
1914: When it all Broke Lose!
On 28 June, in Sarajevo, Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Austria-Hungary blamed Serbia for the killing and because Europe was linked by a series of diplomatic alliances:Austria/Hungary/Germany/Italy (Central Powers) and Britain/France/Russia (Triple Entente/Allied forces) thus the affair escalated into full-scale war.
In other news:
- Germany invades Belgium.
- Britain declares war on Germany.
- Japan joins the Allied forces: Ottoman Empire soon joins the Central Powers.
- War spreads to the seas.
1915: Year Two of This Dreadful War
The Defence of the Realm Act in March 1915 gave the government emergency powers to censor the press, requisition property and control workers' jobs, pay and conditions. The government was not really prepared for war and complaints from the army that they had insufficient supplies led to the formation of a coalition government in May. By October, women were being recruited to undertake traditional 'men's work' at home, such as working on trains and buses.
On the Western Front the stalemate continued and although innovations were introduced to warfare - such as the use of poison gas by both sides.
In Other News:
- Women take up men's jobs.
- Stalemate continues on the Western Front.
- The Lusitania passenger liner is sunk, with 1,200 lives lost.
- London attacked from the air by German Zeppelins.
1916: Still Fighting!
As warfare on all fronts looked like grinding to a halt, the British decided that the solution to the problem was to create a mass popular army. Previous appeals by the war minister, Lord Kitchener had raised over a million volunteers but, on 9 February, conscription began for men aged between 18 and 41. During the course of the war, over 4.5 million Britons served in arms in addition to over three million troops from the British Empire.
As the war raged on, changes continued to take place in Britain. In February, a scheme for National Savings was introduced to increase government access to funds and, on 21 May, a measure to ensure daylight saving (British summertime) was introduced to allow for greater production in the factories and munitions works of the industrial heartland.
In Other News:
- Conscription for men aged between 18 and 41.
- A million casualties in ten months: Germany aims to 'bleed France white'.
- At sea the Battle of Jutland takes place.
- Armed uprisings in Dublin: the Irish Republic is proclaimed.
1917: When Will It End?
The year 1917 saw great changes in the course of the war. At sea, submarine warfare was intensified and British food reserves ran dangerously low in the spring. Two innovations - the convoy system (where ships traveled in groups with military escort) and rationing (of meat, butter, lard, margarine and sugar) - led to the overcoming of this problem. Developments on the Home Front came with equal pace: on 28 March the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps was formed, placing women into the heat of warfare in a military sense for the first time; in April 1918, the junior service (the Royal Air Force) was founded. British anti-German feeling had increased as the war had gone on and, on 17 June, the British royal family changed their surname to Windsor to appear more British.
In Other News:
- German Army retreats to the Hindenburg Line.
- United States joins the war and assists the Allies.
- Tank, submarine and gas warfare intensifies.
- Royal family change their surname to Windsor to appear more British.
1918: Hip Hip Hooray!
German forces released from the Eastern Front launched a major offensive on the Western Front in the spring of 1918. Despite some minor initial successes, by July the Germans had failed to break the Allied lines and, in effect, this meant that the war was reaching its endgame.
At home in Britain, victory was greeted with celebrations and a return to something like normality. So many things had changed, however, and in a General Election held in December (where the coalition government were returned with a massive majority), women over 30 were allowed the vote for the first time. Although an armistice was agreed in November 1918, it was not until 28 June 1919 that the Treaty of Versailles was signed between the Allied powers and Germany, thus officially ending the war 'to end all wars'. Further treaties with the other defeated Central powers followed through 1919 and, in the victorious countries, public celebrations marked the end of hostilities.
In Other News:
- Germany launches major offensive on the Western Front.
- Allies launch successful counter-offensives at the Marne and Amiens.
- Armistice signed on November 11, ending the war at 11am.
- In Britain, a coalition government is elected and women over 30 succeed in gaining the vote.
© Ms. Stockman's Social Studies. 2014