The Home Front

The Brown Family’s Four War Christmases cartoon

This cartoon by G M Payne, originally published in Sunday Pictorial on 23 December 1917, shows the changes experienced by a British family as the First World War progressed. It’s a great resource to use for the basis of a lesson about the effects of the war on the British Home Front, and to show how attitudes to the war changed over time. The annual Christmas tableau begins with the optimistic attitude of 1914 and ends in 1917 as rationing takes hold.

I’ve put together a very simple PowerPoint looking at each frame in turn that you can download here. This works well as a lesson to recap the Home Front. Students identify the changes and, based on their knowledge, explain why those changes happened. A written task could be to describe and explain the changes between the first and last frame in the context of the British Home Front.

Ed Podesta has an excellent lesson using the same cartoon to explore the significance of the war on different aspects of life in Britain. You can find the resources for that lesson here.

Download a copy of The Brown Family’s Four War Christmases cartoon here

Download a PowerPoint that could form the basis of a lesson exploring the changes in the British Home Front here

The British Home Front in WW1

German navy attack Scarborough

The German naval bombardment of Scarborough in WW1

Shortly after 8am on the 16th December 1914, the German Imperial Navy attacked the British seaside towns of Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby. 137 people died, and another 592 were injured as a result of the bombardment – most of whom were civilians.

The smaller German fleet always sought to avoid direct engagement with the British. Instead they focused on targeted attacks and, after an earlier fast raid on the seaside town of Yarmouth, sought to increase the use of such tactics. The hope was that this would draw out parts of the British fleet and German U-Boats could pick them off one by one.

The Germans had determined that an attack on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby would be possible after a U-17 returned from a reconnaissance mission. It was identified that there were few mines in the vicinity, and no coastal defences, which made the towns an easy target since they were within easy striking distance of Germany.

British Intelligence had already decoded messages that indicated the German battle fleet would be mounting the raid. However, British Admiral John Jellicoe opted to allow the raid to happen and then intercept the German ships on their return. This proved catastrophic, as the British underestimated the size of the German attack, which saw over a thousand shells being fired, and then failed to engage the enemy.

The British public was outraged firstly that the Germans had attacked civilians, and secondly that the Royal Navy had failed to stop them. However, ‘Remember Scarborough’ soon became a key message of the British propaganda campaign and vengeance was used as an incentive for recruitment.

WW1 Volunteers

Why did British people volunteer for the Great War? (video clip)

A short video featuring interviews with British people who volunteered to fight in the First World War in 1914-15.

Enlisting for the army in the First World War

A short video extract showing German and British attitudes to the outbreak of war, and how these influenced men to join the army.

The role of women in the First World War