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The Home Front

Although the majority of the fighting during the First World War took place beyond Britain’s shores, British people at home were far from unaffected. 


The Home Front

© IWM Artspt 13352. the government introduced rationing in 1918.

The Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) was introduced in August 1914 in the interest of maintaining security during the war. The Act allowed the government to impose widespread restrictions on the British population, including censorship of newspapers and rationing of food.

The introduction of food rationing was aimed at preventing panic buying and hoarding of food, thus ensuring there were no food shortages. However, the supply of food became a national problem from 1916 when German submarines (known as U-boats) began attacking and sinking merchant ships heading for Britain. 

The home front in Britain wasn’t only affected by Germany’s U-boats, there was also a terrifying bomb campaign that saw many towns attacked by German Zeppelins and shelled by warships. 


Air Raids

The Zeppelins were capable of carrying up to two tonnes of bombs, and their first campaign in January 1915 targeted Great Yarmouth and Kings Lynn. The German air raids resulted in the British authorities imposing ‘blackouts’, under DORA, in areas thought to be at risk of attack. Despite such precautions, the raids killed more than 500 British civilians and injured over 1,000.

The bombardment sowed fear among the population, but it may also have contributed to the strong sense of patriotism that sent men flocking in their thousands to the recruiting offices.


Prohibition

Throughout the First World War many countries, such as Britain, Germany, Austria Hungary, France, Russia and Italy, were concerned that the amount of alcohol being consumed by the public was affecting the war effort. 

© IWM ART 840. the food queue.

In Britain, the Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George saw alcohol consumption as a huge problem. To address the issue, he started a campaign to encourage national figures to publicly pledge that they would give up alcohol during the war years. One such supporter was King George V who promised that no alcohol would be drunk in the Royal household until the war was over.

The campaign showed little success and so the ‘No Treating Order’ was issued, establishing closing times for Public Houses and preventing people from buying alcoholic drinks for others. The level of tax on alcohol was increased, by 1918 a bottle of whisky cost five times more than it had before the outbreak of the war. The government’s methods proved successful, alcohol consumption was reduced and British consumption fell from 89 million gallons in 1914 to 37 million in 1918. 

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DID YOU KNOW...?

In London in 1914, 67,000 people were found guilty of being drunk. In 1917 this had fallen to 16,500.