Explain The Changing Attitudes Of British Soldiers

And Civilians Towards The War Essay, Research Paper

When war broke out in 1914 soldiers were ready and eager to

fight a war they believed would be over by Christmas. They volunteered to beat

the Germans, to fight for King and country, to protect their land and families

and they believed it was their duty. There was also huge public pressure to

join up and objectors were given white feathers and publicly ridiculed. Friends

egged each other on and rushed to join up together ? these were known as ?pals

battalions?. Civilians were caught up by the war fever. Years of anti-German

feeling led to atmosphere of finally being able to teach the Germans a lesson.

Patriotic fever swept the country except for those who did not want to

fight? – mostly for religious reasons.

Huge efforts were made to raise money for the war effort and newspapers and

radios were read and listened to by a population hungry for the details of the

fighting.Gradually the soldiers realised that the fighting was not

only not going to be over by Christmas but could go on for years. New and more

efficient methods ? tanks, planes and gas added to the sheer misery of the

soldiers. Battles such as the Somme and Passchendale saw soldiers killed in

numbers never seen before. Plagued by cold, rats, fleas, lice with a shortage

of food and homesick the soldiers began to question what they were doing ?

especially since the Generals and Officers, with a few exceptions stayed well

behind the actual fighting lines.? The

condition in the trenches was appalling ? cold and wet with no comforts.? Food was rationed and inadequate so the

soldiers were usually hungry.? Leave was

rare and it could be difficult for the average soldier to get home given the

transport problems.? Many of the

soldiers were young, frightened and very homesick.? For thousands of men in the army it was the first time that they

had been away from home and the ?noble cause? they were fighting for became

harder to actually believe in.? Any

letters home were heavily censored and they couldn?t talk about they felt or

what was really happening.? News from

home could take weeks to arrive and men would worry about their families if

they lived in an area that was under threat and male relatives who were also

away fighting.? Whilst they were away

many became fathers and didn?t know when, if ever, they would see their

children.Having joined up with friends many witnessed friends

slaughtered on the battlefields and became depressed and demoralised. Soldiers

waiting to go over the top were probably terrified, reluctant to go and wanting

to go home. Morale became lower and lower as more and more men saw the fighting

as a futile exercise where neither side seemed to make any advance. The fact

that so much of the war was a stalemate led to boredom with nothing to relieve

the monotony.? The constant bombardment

from the enemy meant that sleep was short and interrupted so as well as every

thing else the soldiers would have been constantly tired ? some almost to the point

of exhaustion. Generals, distant from their men by miles, and often class,

appeared to have no real sympathy or understanding for the average soldier.

Field Officers understood more since they actually saw the conditions the

soldiers were fighting under but they were powerless to act.? Part of the problem was that many Generals

had no real conception of how fighting tactics had changed since the Crimean

War over a decade before.? At the end of

the war the overriding feeling was of relief to be going home at last, to be

alive and able to go. It was probably very difficult to feel enthusiastic and

happy about the victory except it meant being able to see home again.On the home front women took over many men?s jobs and

settled down to ?keep the home fires burning? for their men to come home to

when the ?war to end all wars? was over. They presumed, as the soldiers had, it

wouldn?t be long. Germans were portrayed as evil monsters and the propaganda

machine worked all the time to try and keep morale high and justify the war.

The home front kept factories going, helped with rationing and tried to keep

people?s spirits up. By claiming the bombing of Scarborough 1916 was killing

innocent victims the Government could give a reason for the necessity of winning

the war.However many civilians had to suffer air raids, the carrying

of gas masks and uncertainty as to the whereabouts and well being of their

family and friends. Due to heavy censorship civilian attitude to war took

longer to change than the men fighting on the front. Civilian life changed

dramatically during the war.? Strikes in

factories were banned so that there could be no threat to the production of

arms or other wartime necessities and pubs were closed at lunchtime so that

workers could not get drunk and build faulty guns etc.? All talk of war was banned in public places

in case enemy spies overheard some important military talk.? They were subjected to endless speeches

promoting the war and began to suffer war fatigue.? Every where they looked there were reminders of the fighting ?

from radio broadcasts to posters warning of the dangers of careless talk and

propaganda to try to get men to enlist.?

Almost everything was rationed ? food, clothes and other things that

people had taken for granted before the outbreak of war.? The constant worry about husbands, boyfriends, brothers,

fathers etc took their toll and reading the casualty list of newspapers every

day to see whom you knew that had died would have added to the constant stress

that they were living under. The horror of the trenches was played down but

after 1916 the ever-increasing list of casualties, which the Government could

not hide, increased awareness in people that many hundreds of thousands were

dying and slowly morale began to falter.?

Many people just wanted life to return to normal and began to long for

the war to be over and for their loved ones to come home.? The long separation from loved ones was extremely

hard to bear once the belief that it would be a short war became a distant

memory.? For most married women it meant

that they were struggling to bring up their children alone, with fathers some

of them barely knew, work in the factories and live with the constant fear of

an air raid and their men not returning.?

Civilians celebrated the end of the war with parties and

victory celebrations. Many had no idea what the soldiers had been through and

could not understand the weary acceptance of the soldiers.? The relief that it was all finally over and

life could begin to return to normal was overwhelming and they all believed

that it would never happen again.? They

thought that the ?war to end all wars? would be a lesson no one could forget.


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