Rationing and Recruitment
• The government tried to encourage people to save food due to the food shortages.
• The Women’s Land Army helped to grow food in the countryside.
• Public parks were taken over for the growing of vegetable.
• In 1918 the rationing of foods such as sugar, butter and beef was introduced.
• People were issued with ration books with coupons in them that they had to use every time they bought food.
• Patriotism spread across the whole of the country when war was declared.
• Many people were tricked into volunteering through government propaganda.
• In 1914 Britain had a volunteer army and millions signed up to join the army.
• Volunteers feared the war would be over by Christmas and they might miss the “action” if they did not volunteer early.
• Those who volunteered with friends could serve with them in Pal Regiments.
• Those who did not join the army were branded cowards and given white feathers from women.
• By 1916 over two million men had been recruited into the armed forces.
• By 1916 the government was forced to introduce conscription as volunteers numbers fell, as conditions in the trenches became well known.
• The government demanded all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 41 to join the armed forces.
• Those who refused to fight on moral grounds were called conscientious objectors and they were put in prison or worked as medical stretcher-bearers.
Recruitment to the army came in 3 phases during the First World War.
2) ‘Kitchener’s Army’
Lord Kitchener was the Secretary of War. He was responsible for recruiting soldiers. At the start of the war a very successful campaign was started to encourage men to ‘join up’. Posters, such as the one to the right, were used to advertise the army.
Other successful methods of encouraging people to join up included the creation of ‘Pals Battalions’. This scheme placed men from the same area in a battalion together: knowing other people in the army would ease the mind of some recruits.
“We had been brought up to believe that Britain was the best country in the world and we wanted to defend her. The history taught us at school showed that we were better than other people and now all the news was that Germany was the aggressors and we wanted to show the Germans what we could do.
I thought it would be the end of the world if I didn’t pass (the medical). People were being failed for all sorts of reasons. When I came to have my chest measured (I was only sixteen and rather small) I took a deep breath and puffed out my chest as far as I could and the doctor said “You’ve just scraped through”. It was marvellous being accepted.
When I went back home and told my mother she said I was a fool and she’d give me a good hiding; but I told her, “I’m a man now, you can’t hit a man”.
Private George Morgan, Ist Bradford Pals, interviewed after the war
Now, dearest mum, keep your heart up, and trust in Providence: I am sure I shall come through all right. It is a great and glorious thing to be going to fight for England in her hour of desperate need and, remember, I am going to fight for you, to keep you safe.
Second Lieutenant Cyril Rawlins, letter to mother (December, 1914)
The reasons for and the consequences of the introduction of Conscription in 1916
Due to heavy losses on the Western Front the government introduced conscription in 1916. Conscription required selected men to enrol in the armed forces. Whilst many of them were happy to fight for their country, others objected on moral grounds.
Source: From the East Grimstead Observer, March 25th 1916.
John Johnson, a stockman of Belle View Farm, Tilgate, Crawley, shot himself on Friday evening. A gun shot was heard outside John Johnson’s home on his birthday and the deceased was found under a yew tree. The poor fellow had placed the barrel of the gun in his mouth, the bullet penetrating the brain and emerging at the top of the skull. It transpired that one of John Johnson’s sons had just be killed and another badly wounded in the war. The third son was being called up shortly.
Source: Appeal to the organised workers, 1916.
The armed forces of the nation have been multiplied at least five-fold since the war began, and recruits are still being enrolled well over 2,000,000 of its breadwinners to the new armies, and Lord Kitchener and Mr. Asquith have both repeatedly assured the public that the response to the appeal for recruits have been highly gratifying and has exceeded all expectations. What the conscriptionists want, however, is not recruits, but a system of conscription that will bring the whole male working-class population under the military control of the ruling classes.