The Year 1915 Illustrated/The War at Home
THE past twelve months have witnessed many changes in social and commercial life in England. Some of the most cherished liberties of the subject have been suspended during the period of the war. The freedom of the press has been rigorously curtailed by the Censor. Nearly three millions of able-bodied men have been taken from civil life for the ever-growing armies; 800,000 workmen have been transferred to the manufacture of munitions. The National expenditure of the year 1915-16, as given by Mr. McKenna in his Budget speech on September 21st, is likely to reach £1,590,000,000, and the national revenue only £305,000,000, leaving a deficit of £1,285,000,000. War is a hard taskmaster and a wanton spendthrift and gambler.
Increased burdens have been placed on the workers by a thirty-four per cent. rise in the price of food stuffs, and the middle classes have been fined an extra forty per cent. on account of Income Tax. Perhaps the most startling increase of the National expenditure was revealed on September 15th last, when the Prime Minister announced that the war expenditure had reached £3,500,000 a day and that the gross weekly expenditure during the following weeks would be £35,000,000; such figures stagger the imagination by their immensity. The drain on the resources of the Empire is not only or principally a monetary one. The savings of a generation are fast disappearing; but these can be gathered again by thrift and economy. It is different when we come to consider the wastage of the best lives of our country.
The following figures, taken from official statements made in Parliament, are illuminating as indicating the casualties suffered by the British Armies during the war up to October last.
|IN ALL SERVICES|
|February 8 (six months)||104,000|
|April 11 (eight months)||109,347|
|June 9 (ten months)||258,000|
|August 4 (twelve months)||381,983|
|October 9 (fourteen months)||493,294|
Officers killed 6,660, wounded 12,633, missing 2,000.
Men killed 94,992, wounded 304,832, missing 72,177.
|LOSSES TO DARDANELLES FORCES|
It was not until the spring of the year that the shortage of shells and other forms of ammunition was made known to the public in England. The Battle of Neuve Chapelle and the Second Battle of Ypres brought the fact home in a startling manner. It was then realised that there was no hope of the Allies breaking the German line in the West unless shells, more shells, and still more shells, were to be forthcoming. The demand had outgrown the supply, and how to increase that supply was the most vital question before the Coalition Government when it was formed in May. Previous to this event, Mr. Lloyd George had been appointed Chairman of a Government Committee to organise the output of munitions, and on the reconstruction of the Cabinet he continued this work with increased powers and responsibilities, being appointed the first Minister of Munitions this country has known. In taking up this arduous work Mr. Lloyd George relinquished the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. McKenna becoming his successor at the Treasury.
The growth of the munitions industry was evidenced in September when the great advance of the Allies at Loos and in the Champagne was preceded by a continuous bombardment of the German positions lasting over some weeks; also by the facts made public by the Prime Minister on September 15th, when he informed the House of Commons that 20 national shell factories were in full swing, 18 more were being established, 18 other co-operative factories were engaged on the manufacture of smaller shells, 715 works were under Government control in which some 809,000 workmen were employed. The expenditure of shells in battles in this war has outrun all expectations. In the fortnight's fighting at Neuve Chapelle as much ammunition was expended as in the whole of the Boer War!
The disorganisation of the life and industry of the Nation through the demands made by the war has resulted in one or two serious crises in the world of labour. The most serious was the strike of the South Wales miners in July. For a short time it looked as though the dispute would have serious and far-reaching consequences, but happily the situation was faced by the Government in the right spirit and the men returned to their work with the satisfaction that the greater part of their demands had been acceded to.
During the year the railway workers have received an increase in their wages to the extent of five shillings, this being designated a bonus for the period of the war. In other industries there has been a general rise in wages to meet the higher cost of living. The women workers have been organised in a way that we have never known before. Thousands are now employed for the first time in factories, whilst thousands more have been shifted into the public services and businesses generally to take the place of men who have enlisted for the fighting line. The woman ticket collector and booking clerk are now commonplaces at our railway stations, whilst the "seats of the mighty" at many an hotel, where aforetime the alien waited upon his lord, are now tended by the fair sex.
The housing and general care of the thousands of homeless Belgians who drifted over to this country after the fall of Antwerp has been one of the problems arising out of the war which English people have had to face. That it has been solved to the general satisfaction of both parties is in large measure due to the devoted services of men and women in almost every town in the country who gave themselves up to the providing of hospitality either in their own homes or in houses acquired for the purpose.
The desirability of interning many of the Austrian and German subjects resident in England became evident in the early months of the war, but no comprehensive scheme was worked out by the Government until after the sinking of the Lusitania and the subsequent riots which took place in London and other industrial centres. The countless rumours of Germans in this country acting as spies and sending informa-tion to the enemy have for the most part been baseless, but, on the other hand, there have been some proved cases of espionage which have been dealt with under military law.
The regulation of the sale of excisable drinks during the war has been the most thorny question which the Government has had to handle during the year. The advance towards total prohibition in Russia and the prohibition of the sale of absinthe in France suggested that it might be advisable to deal in a similar drastic manner with the sale of alcoholic drinks in England. The King, Lord Kitchener and the Archbishop of Canterbury took the lead in a voluntary pledge to prohibit the use of intoxicating drinks in their households, but unfortunately this excellent example was not generally followed. Mr. Lloyd George's heroic proposals to make people sober by Act of Parliament were so strongly opposed that they were dropped; increased duties on beer were suggested, only to be withdrawn.
The Government then fell back on a Central Control Board for regulating the sale of drink in military areas. Their proposals in this direction received ready acceptance by all parties, and the Control Board was quickly organised and set to work. The results have been generally encouraging. The hours for the sale of liquor have been much curtailed, spirits have been still further diluted, and "treating" has been forbidden. On October 2nd, the "treating" order was extended to London and the drink cases at the Courts have since that time shown a decided decline.
Although the British Government has lagged far behind the German Government in the matter of control of the food supply of the nation, it has in a few instances taken possession of stocks and in the case of meat has become a wholesale importer and distributor; beef to the value of £50,000,000 has been bought, sold and distributed, all supplies to the French Armies passing through the hands of the British Government by arrangement. Sugar has become a Government monoply. In the matter of the dye industry which, before the war, was practically wholly in German hands, a beginning has been made with the organisation of British Dye Works on a large scale, the Government having come forward with financial assistance for this purpose.
The first National Register Bill was introduced into the House of Commons by Mr. Walter Long on June 29th. After a considerable amount of criticism it became law in July and the Registration Forms were duly circulated, and on August 15th every man and woman between 15 and 65 years of age was called upon to fill up a form with particulars as to their age and occupation and to reply to a query as to whether they would be willing to undertake national service for the army or in the manufacture of munitions. The forms were afterwards collected and classified with the object of making the information given easily available for the new recruiting campaign which is now being organised and advanced under the direction of Lord Derby, the new Director of Recruiting appointed by the Government. Lord Derby is in active co-operation with the leaders of the Trades Unions throughout the country, who have pledged themselves to find the necessary recruits to meet the demands for more men of enlistment age for the Army.
The first loan for the expenses of the war was promoted in November last year for £350,000,000. In July of this year a further four-and-a-half per cent. loan was floated for which over £585,000,000 was subscribed. A new departure was made in the course of this loan whereby small amounts could be taken up through the Post Office. It was stated that thousands of the working classes availed themselves of the facility thus given for lending small amounts to the Government to carry on the war.
The Loan raised in America for £100,000,000 to correct the balance against this country by reason of the large increase of imports and the falling off of exports was duly authorised by Parliament in October, but the rate of interest and the general terms of the flotation did not pass without much criticism both in Parliament and outside.
Among the other matters which have engaged the thought of the Government and the attention of the people at home generally, mention should be made of the precautions taken against Zeppelin raids by the installation of anti-aircraft guns near the larger centres of population, the restrictions put upon the lighting of the streets and houses, and the new policies which have been issued for insurance of property against risks from bombs. That all these precautions have been warranted is evidenced by the wide area which the Zeppelins have covered in their visits to this country.
On May 22nd the most terrible British railway disaster on record occurred on the Caledonian line at Quintinshill, a few miles north of Carlisle, when over 200 people were killed and 246 injured. At the Board of Trade inquiry into the cause of the accident, James Tinsley, the signalman in charge at the Quintinshill cabin, admitted that he quite forgot that a stationary local train was occupying the up line when he accepted a troop train from the north and passed it on to the Gretna section. As a result of this neglect, the troop train, which was packed with officers and men of the 7th Royal Scots on the way to the front, ran into the local and became a complete wreck. The scenes that followed were of the most terrible nature, as before warning could be given a London to Scotland express crashed into the débris, thus involving three trains in the disaster. In September, James Tinsley was sentenced to three years' penal servitude and Meakin to eighteen months' imprisonment.
ELSEWHERE we have recorded the visit which King George paid to the British troops at the front in November last year. At the end of October this year he entered on another visit, but, unfortunately, this was brought to a premature conclusion by an accident, the King being thrown from his horse during the course of an inspection of the troops. The horse fell upon His Majesty and caused severe bruising and much pain. The King was conveyed back to England on an Ambulance ship, and maintained great fortitude amidst the inconveniences attendant upon a rough passage across the Channel. On arrival home he dictated a message from his sick bed, finishing with the words:
- “It is a matter of sincere regret to me that my accident should have prevented my seeing all the troops I had intended, but during my stay amongst you I have seen enough to fill my heart with admiration of your patient, cheerful endurance of life in the trenches, a life either of weary monotony or of terrible tumult. It is the dogged determination evinced by all ranks which will at last bring you to victory. Keep the goal in sight, and remember it is the final lap that wins.”