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?

Outbreak of war in 1914: Crowds celebrate outside 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 globe 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 Belgium 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.

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First World War

Causes of the First World War – Timeline of Causes – Forgotten Causes – Assassination of Franz Ferdinand – The Schlieffen Plan – Historiography of the Causes of the First World War

Outbreak of War (Public reaction in Britain) – The British Expeditionary Force in 1914

Trench Warfare – Simulation: Would you make a good officer in the trenches? – British contribution to the Western Front

Battles of the First World War – First Battle of the Marne – The Gallipoli Campaign – Battle of Verdun – Battle of Jutland – Brusilov Offensive – Battle of the Somme – Battle of Passchendaele – The Spring Offensive – Battle of Amiens – Victory on the Western Front?

The Home Front – Revision exercise – Changing role of Women – Propaganda – Censorship – Conscientious Objectors – Rationing and Recruitment

Personalities – Douglas Haig and the Somme – Charles Gass – Billy Bishop – Ludendorff – The Bradford Pals – Black History and the First World War

Technology and New Weapons – British Tanks – Machine Guns

Medicine in the First World War

Other wars:

The Norman ConquestThe Wars of the RosesThe British and English Civil WarsThe Second World War – Vietnam WarCold War

Famous Battles:

Battle of Hastings – Battle of TowtonBattle of BosworthD Day

Related Content:

The British EmpireThe Treaty of VersaillesImpact of the War on Germany – Primary HistoryHistory Teachers Resources

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