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War and the transformation of British society c1903–28

Key Topic 1: The Liberals, votes for women and social reform

The activities of the women’s societies and the reaction of the authorities.
Children’s welfare measures, old age pensions.
Labour Exchanges 1909, the National Insurance Act 1911.

Key Topic 2: The part played by the British on the Western Front

The BEF and 1914.
Britain’s contribution to the Western Front 1915–17.
The end of the war.

Key Topic 3: The home front and social change

DORA, censorship and propaganda.
Recruitment and rationing.
The part played by women.

Key Topic 4: Economic and social change 1918–28

The changing role of women 1918–28.
Industrial unrest 1918–27.
The General Strike of 1926.

The British contribution to the Western Front

At the outbreak of the First World War the British Expeditionary Force was deployed to Belgium and Northern France. This force numbered some 120,000 men. The first action seen by the BEF was at the Battle of Mons which saw heavy casualties inflicted upon the Germans. Following this the BEF fought at the Battle of the Marne and successfully prevented the Germans outflanking British and French Troops during the 'race for the sea'. After the First Battle of Ypres the British army was stationed along just 20 miles of front line trenches, in and around the Ypres Salient. By the end of the war the British controlled over 140 miles of front line trenches.

By the end of the war over 7 million men and women had seen service in the British Army. Of these 1.6 million were recorded as being wounded, 662000 were killed and 140000 were listed as missing, presumed dead.

The figures above suggest a massive contribution to the war effort. Whilst these numbers are staggering and remarkably high it is worth remembering that the British were just one of the armies participating on the Western Front. The French army was larger and in control of a larger part of the front line for the entirety of the war. The Western Front Association has calculated the percentage of troops that were British on the Western Front and the average length of front line controlled by each army:

Year. Monthly mean British Frontage. British as % of total French British Frontage Maximum length of British Frontage
1914 21 miles 4.7% 25 miles
1915 43 miles 9.7% 70 miles
1916 80 miles 18.0% 90 miles
1917 87 miles 19.6% 110 miles
1918 87 miles 23.8% 123 miles
Source: The Western Front Association

 


 

 

 

 

 

   

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