First World War

Date start:
14 Aug 1914
Date end:
11 Nov 1918
First World War

Britain declared war on Germany at 11pm on Tuesday 4 August 1914. The announcement was met with a huge and unprecedented wave of enthusiasm.

Up to 80,000 London men were already serving in Britain's armed forces. Spurred on by propaganda, nationalist fervour and the promise of adventure, many more eagerly joined the ranks.

Government appeals for volunteers began almost immediately. Some poster campaigns urged or shamed men to enlist while others encouraged women to persuade their men to join.

However as the war dragged on and casualties mounted, increased pressure was put on 'slackers' who had not yet enlisted. Under the motto 'Wake up, London!', columns of soldiers marched through the capital to attract recruits. There were continual rallies in Trafalgar Square.

Armbands were issued to men who promised to enlist when called upon. Some women continued to distribute white feathers (a sign of cowardice) to those not in uniform. Britain's first conscription law was passed in January 1916.

Alternate Names

  • The Great War
  • World War One

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