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The First World War

When the British Government declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914, many people thought that it would last only a matter of months. In a wave of patriotism, thousands of young men volunteered to join the armed forces to fight for King and country.

By the summer of 1915, it became clear that the war would not be short lived. More troops were needed because of heavy casualties and dreadful conditions suffered in the trenches. The Military Service Act was passed in January 1916, introducing conscription (compulsory military service).

The Great War was different from previous wars – it involved the whole country in the war effort. Shortly after war broke out it was obvious that it would affect not only the troops engaged in action but also the daily lives of Scots on the Home Front. Industries had to provide for the many needs of the fighting forces. Factories adapted to produce armaments - tanks, aeroplanes, fire arms and munitions as well as uniforms. As more men were drafted into service, alternative labour was needed to fill their jobs, and for the first time women were employed in agriculture and manufacturing industries. Attacks at sea affected the transport of food and raw materials between Scotland and neighbouring countries. In response there was a drive to produce more home grown food to tackle the problem of shortages. In 1916 the Ministry of Food was set up to control food supplies and in February 1918, food rationing was introduced.

Britain and her allies defeated Germany. An armistice was announced on 11 November 1918 and celebrations took place throughout the country. Remembrance of lives lost, exhaustion and economic decline soon changed the mood of the country. As Scotland's fishing and heavy industries went into decline, unemployment figures rose, women were forced to return to the home as men took what jobs were available and emigration offered a means of escape.

Scotland's wealth, confidence and sense of identity were affected by the war and the years ahead witnessed more change and hardship on the road to recovery.



Austria declared war with Serbia, and triggered a domino effect involving a complicated network of alliances between European states, which led to the Great War.

4 August: Britain declared war on Germany


Home Front

8 August: Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) gives government wide-ranging powers to control or restrict people at home.

War Front

Oct-Nov: Battle of Ypres.


Feb: German submarine blockade of Britain.

Women employed in industry, in the services and on the land.

May: Rent strikes in Glasgow.

July: Munitions of War Act. Women working in munitions factories.

Derby Scheme introduced to recruit men into the forces.

Dec: Douglas Haig appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force.

Apr-May: 2nd Battle of Ypres.

Aug 1915-Jan 1916: Gallipoli campaign in Turkey.

Sept-Oct: Battle of Loos.


January and May: Military Service Acts introduce conscription for men aged 19 to 40.

April and May: Zeppelin air raids on the east coast of Scotland.

Dec: Lloyd George succeeds Asquith as Prime Minister.

Jul-Nov: Battle of the Somme.


Apr: America declares war on Germany.

December: Rationing introduced by the Ministry of Food.

Apr-May: Battle of Arras.

Jul-Nov: 3rd Battle of Ypres.


Apr: Military Service Act extends conscription to men aged up to 50.

Representation of the People Act: Men over 21 and women over 30 get the vote.

Rise of the Labour Party and continued decline of the Liberal Party.

Mar: Germany launches major offensives in France.


7-11 Nov: Armistice negotiations take place. Germany surrenders.

11 Nov: Armistice Day brings an end to the war.



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