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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. Overview

Children’s welfare measures, old age pensions. Overview

Labour Exchanges 1909, the National Insurance Act 1911. Overview

The political position of women in 1903




Reactions of the authorities to militancy and protest

Forced feeding

The ‘Cat and Mouse Act’

Children’s Charter (1906)

The School Meals Act (1906)

Medical Inspection, 1907.

The reasons for and importance of Old Age Pensions Act (1908).

Labour Exchanges (1909)

National Insurance Act 1911.

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

The BEF and 1914. Overview

Britain’s contribution to the Western Front 1915–17. Overview

The end of the war. Overview

The despatch of the BEF

The part played in the events of 1914

The failure of the Schlieffen Plan

The race for the sea

Setting up of the trench system.

The nature of trench warfare

Haig and the Battle of the Somme

The development and importance of new weapons



The creeping barrage.

Britain’s part in the events of 1918

Ludendorff’s offensives

The drive to victory.

Key Topic 3: The home front and social change

DORA, censorship and propaganda. Overview

Recruitment and rationing. Overview

The part played by women. Overview

The importance of censorship

Examples of propaganda

The various methods of recruitment: 1914–16

The reasons for, and impact of, conscription: 1916–18

Conscientious objectors.


The effects of submarine warfare on Britain

Measures brought in by the Government to alleviate the threat of U-Boats.

Key Topic 4: Economic and social change 1918–28

The changing role of women 1918–28. Overview

Industrial unrest 1918–27. Overview

The General Strike of 1926. Overview

Extension of the franchise

The changes in women’s work and social changes.

Trade union membership

Industrial militancy in the years 1918–20

The long-term and immediate problems of the coal industry

Black Friday (1921)

Red Friday (1925)

The Samuel Commission (March 1926).

Government preparations and measures to deal with the General Strike

The reasons why the TUC called off the General strike

Trades Disputes Act of 1927.

The Development of New Weapons during the First World War

As the war developed both sides tried to find ways round a direct attacks on enemy trenches. Artillery guns were used to fire shells from behind your own lines into enemy trenches. The British used 170 million shells during the war, but often they did little but churn up the ground in 'No Man's-Land' and make it even harder for the soldiers to cross.

In 1916 at the Battle of the Somme, the British introduced a new weapon, the tank. The tank had been secretly built in England and had special caterpillar tracks which helped them it to cross trenches and ‘No Man’s Land’. The British generals hoped that their new tanks would crush the barbed wire and protect their infantry from machine gun fire so that they could come up behind them and attack the German trenches with their mill bombs and rifles.

These large rumbling machines terrified the Germans but they were unreliable and most of them broke down during the Battle of the Somme. However, at the Battle of Cambrai in 1917, the new Mark IV Tanks broke through the German trenches and pushed them back nearly 5 miles. There were still many mechanical problems with tanks, but they proved themselves to be a weapon of the future.

Throughout the war the British Army kept on redesigning the tank. However, the true potential of the tank was only unlocked towards the end of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, and again in 1917, at the Battle of Cambrai, when it was used with another new weapon the fighter aircraft.

The two fighter aircraft used to support tank attacks were the Sopwith Salamander and the Dolphin. They would attack the German trenches with their machine gun fire and then drop small bombs on the enemy soldiers. Source A below, describes one of the very first combined tank and air attacks in the final phase of the Battle of the Somme.

Source A: Sir Douglas Haig, September 1916.

"Gueudecourt was carried after the protecting trench to the west had been captured in a somewhat interesting fashion. In the early morning a Tank’ started down the portion of the trench held by the enemy from the north-west, firing its machine guns and followed by bombers (Men carrying Mills Bombs). The enemy could not escape, as we held the trench at the southern end. At the same time an aeroplane flew down the length of the trench, also firing a machine gun at the enemy holding it. These then waved white handkerchiefs in token of surrender, and when this was reported by the aeroplane the infantry accepted the surrender of the garrison. By 8.30 A.M. the whole trench had been cleared, great numbers of the enemy had been killed, and 8 officers and 362 other ranks made prisoners. Our total casualties amounted to five."

Another new weapon that was developed during the First World War was the bomber aircraft. The British Army was slow to recognise the value of the bomber and it was left to the Royal Navy to ask Sir Frederick Handley Page to build a patrol bomber. Its early success was soon recognised by the Army who began to use it with devastating effect to attack railway lines and factories behind German trenches which helped stop reinforcements and supplies getting to the front.

The success of the Sopwith Salamander and the Dolphin and as well as other fighter and bomber aircraft such as Handley Page 0/400 in the Royal Flying Corps, lead General Haig and his staff setting up of the Royal Air Force as separate military service in April 1918. The RAF was at its largest on the first day it was set up with just over 15,000 planes.




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