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Why did so many Britons volunteer to fight in the First World War?

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Why did so many Britons volunteer to fight in the First World War? An excessive wave of nationalism had been one of the primary sources of pre-war tension that had been a significant factor to help cause its outbreak. The announcement of Britain's involvement in the war released this tension and was met with an extraordinary wave of enthusiasm from the public, which was echoed by citizens of countries around the whole Europe. However, Britain's initial involvement in the First World War demonstrated that they were in need of a larger Army; caused by the fact the rest of Europe's combatants had started their armament process early and also because conscription to the armed forces had not been made compulsory until now. The appeal went out and was met with an outstanding reply from British men, eager to do their bit for King and Country. The Secretary of State Lord Kitchener didn't believe the war would be 'over by Christmas' as the mainstream press were predicting, and sent the call for 100,000 men that he needed to send to France for the beginning stages of the war. He got nearly double that. Each man would be signed up for three years, or the duration of the war, with most serving anywhere they were ordered to. ...read more.


The Christmas Day truce in 1914, where British and German soldiers fashioned out an amazing ceasefire, was hyped up by recruitment propaganda, misguiding many about what life in the trenches was actually going to be like. The attraction of the war effort also stretched to minors; sometimes to those as young as thirteen or fourteen. Although this was rather worrying for the authorities and the issue was raised in parliament, this showed the determination of the British youth to do their bit. They were fuelled up with anticipation and excitement that ones so young could feel at the prospect of actually competing in an event as big as a world war. Minors of course, would have also been more susceptible to the Government's propaganda messages and sucked in by the sense of adventure illustrated by war time posters or poems, printed in such a way to glorify life in the trenches. The reasons mentioned beforehand could be cited as possible motives for under-eighteens to volunteer for service, but some simply joined up because their friends had done so or because they were to be fed better. Why this was allowed to happen can be explained by the fact that recruiting sergeants were paid for each man that actually signed up; they were more likely to turn a blind eye to some men not meeting official requirements because of this. ...read more.


Britons were no different. Also, to aid this jingoistic feeling, reports of German atrocities and unfair treatment of captured soldiers added to the desire to join the war effort. The mentality of people enlisting in such a relaxed and care-free manner has also been put down to the fact there was wide spread belief that the war wouldn't even last that long and that this was to be more of an adventure than a fully blown battle. Volunteering was seen as a form of escapism from the monotonous and brutal factory-dominated lives that so many Britons were so eager to leave behind. However, by spring 1915 with heavy losses on the battlefield and the novelty of joining the Army 'adventure' wearing thin, the number of volunteers began to decline. The initial euphoric rapture was replaced by the realistic obligation of duty. Reports of casualties discouraged many from signing their name to the British war cause. After this, it wasn't the love of Britain, protection of Belgium or German retribution that convinced men to join up but the persuasive role of local peer pressure and Government propaganda. This is a view echoed by such historians as Peter Simpkins, who plays down the role of patriotism in volunteer's decision. Despite this though, Britons from up and down the country gave their lives to the war effort for the sheer want to help their country defeat Germany and save their country from defeat. ...read more.

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