Outbreak of war: public reaction

What was the reaction of the British Public to the outbreak of war in 1914?

This photograph was taken outside Buckingham Palace on the day that war was declared.

What does it suggest about the reaction of the British public?

Declaration of War - crowds at Buckingham Palace

The same scene was also recorded by cameramen. Watch this footage to gain a better understanding of the public reaction to war.

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Watch the second clip carefully. It was also filmed in August, 1914.

What is happening in this clip?

What does that suggest about the public reaction to the declaration of war?

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The British Expeditionary Force had been established following the Boer War. It’s purpose was to ensure that Britain was always ready to react to situations around the glode in which her armed forces may be required to participate. By 1914, this force was 120,000 strong. It was commanded by Sir John French, who is seen in the video clip below inspecting troops in August, 1914.


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  1. The BEF (British Expeditionary Force) had 120,000 highly trained professional soldiers at it’s disposal.
  2. The BEF had deployed it’s first troops in France and Belgium just 3 days after the declaration of war.
  3. From 1908, the Territorial Army had been developed to provide a strong reserve of trained soldiers. Each command also held a separate, ‘Special Reserve’.
  4. By the end of the First battle of Ypres, the BEF had deployed 125,000 men in Northern France and Belgium, including members of the Territorial Army who had waived their right to only serve on the Home Front.

The BEF in action.

The BEF was sent to halt the German advance through Beligum and Northern France. The action in these early days of the war is illustrated in the flash animation, below.

Note: This animation has been sent to me by e-mail. If it is subject to copyright, and you are the copyright owner, please contact me to have it correctly attributed or removed from the site.

 First World War Homepage
Causes of the First World War – Assassination of Franz Ferdinand
Schlieffen Plan – Public Reaction to the Outbreak of War
British Expeditionary Force –  Interactive Timeline of the First World War
Simulation: Life in the Trenches – Statistics
Changing role of Women – War Poetry
British Contribution to Western Front – Development of New Weapons
Creeping Barrage – Western Front in 1918
Home Front in the First World War
Timeline Infographic: Causes of World War OneLudendorff and the Spring Offensive