Timeline of the United Kingdom home front during the First World War

This is a timeline of the British home front during the First World War from 1914 to 1918. This conflict was the first modern example of total war in the United Kingdom; innovations included the mobilisation of the workforce, including many women, for munitions production, conscription and rationing. Civilians were subjected to naval bombardments, strategic bombing and food shortages caused by a submarine blockade.

A 1917 poster designed by Robert Baden-Powell encouraging civilian participation in the war effort.


28 June 1914

Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, who was killed in Sarajevo along with his wife Duchess Sophie by Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip.
An artist's impression of the Fleet Review on 18 July 1914.
Daily Mail on 5 Aug

27 July 1914

Winston Churchill orders a "Test Mobilisation" for the Royal Navy's Home Fleet, which was at Portland Harbour following a Fleet Review by King George V

28 July 1914

Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.[1] Russia mobilizes.

29 July 1914

The Home Fleet is ordered to its wartime anchorage at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands.

1 August 1914

Germany declares war on Russia.[1]

2 August 1914

British cabinet decides on war.[2]
Germany invades Luxembourg.

3 August 1914

Germany declares war on France.[1] Belgium denies permission for German forces to pass through to the French border.
Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey makes a speech to the House of Commons, asking Parliament to approve the use of armed force should the German Navy attack the coasts of France, or if Germany violates Belgian neutrality.[3]
Crowds outside Buckingham Palace cheer King George, Queen Mary and the Prince of Wales (who can just be seen on the balcony) following the Declaration of War on 4 August 1914.

4 August 1914

Germany invades Belgium to outflank the French army.
British Government protests the violation of Belgian neutrality, guaranteed by the Treaty of London; German Chancellor replies that the treaty is just a chiffon de papier (a scrap of paper).
The United Kingdom declares war on Germany.[4]
British mobilisation: The Army and Navy Reserves are "called out" and the Territorial Force is "embodied" by Royal Proclamation.[5]

5 August 1914

The Aliens Registration Act 1914 was introduced, compelling German immigrants in the United Kingdom to register with the police and making provision for the deportation or internment of those deemed to be a particular risk.
A poster supporting Lord Kitchener's "call to arms", August 1914.
"Your King and Country need you: a call to arms" is published by Lord Kitchener, the new Secretary of State for War, calling for 100,000 men to enlist in the army. This figure is achieved within two weeks allowing six new divisions to be formed from these volunteers, to be called Kitchener's Army. From December 1914, battalions can be recruited from a specific locality, known as "Pals battalions". By March 1915, a total of 41 new divisions have been raised.[6]

6 August 1914

Currency and Bank Notes Act 1914 authorises the issue of paper £1 and 10 shilling notes.[4]

7 August 1914

The British Expeditionary Force arrives in France.

8 August 1914

The Defence of the Realm Act 1914 (widely known as "DORA") is passed, imposing, censorship and security controls on the civil population.[7]

12 August 1914

The United Kingdom declares war on Austria-Hungary.[4]

September 1914

German businesses in Britain are shutting down, for example the Münchener Löwenbräu London Depot.

November 1914

First "dilution" agreement between the Engineering Employers Federation and trades unions, allowing unskilled workers (including women) to take on some of the roles usually reserved for skilled workers.[8]

19 November 1914

The Central Association of Volunteer Training Corps is recognised by the War Office, legitimising the many town guards and local defence companies that have been formed illegally around the country.[9]

3 December 1914

The No Conscription Fellowship is formed.[10]

16 December 1914

A squadron of German battlecruisers and other warships conduct a raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby, resulting in 137 deaths and 592 casualties, most of whom are civilians.[11]


9 January 1915

Kaiser Wilhelm II authorises airship raids on the United Kingdom, excluding London.

19 January 1915

The first air raid over Britain. Two German Navy Zeppelin airships drop bombs and incendiaries over Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn in Norfolk; four civilians are killed and sixteen injured.[12]
Damage to houses in King's Lynn caused by a Zeppelin airship raid in 1915.

12 February 1915

The Kaiser authorises airship raids on the London Docks.

18 February 1915

The Kaiser authorises an unrestricted submarine blockade of the United Kingdom.[4]

16 March 1915

Defence of the Realm (Amendment) (No 2) Act allows the government to force engineering firms to accept contracts for war related work.[13]

27 March 1915

Commander-in-Chief of the BEF, Sir John French gave an interview to The Times highlighting the shortage of artillery ammunition at the front. This scandal was to become known the Shell Crisis.

16 April 1915

A single German Albatros B.II aircraft bombs Sittingbourne and Faversham in Kent; the first raid by an aeroplane. There are no casualties.[14]
A poster published by the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee reflecting public anger at the sinking of RMS Lusitania on 7 May 1915. This was also the cause of rioting directed against German immigrants in several British cities.

7 May 1915

The sinking of the British ocean liner RMS Lusitania by a U-boat, with the loss of 1,198 passengers and crew, provokes anti-German riots in London and other cities. Mobs target shops and businesses owned by Germans or those with German surnames.

26 May 1915

Prime Minister H. H. Asquith announces his new ministry, a coalition government with the Conservative Party. David Lloyd George was made Minister of Munitions, relieving Kitchener of that aspect of his role. Churchill is relieved of control of the Admiralty following the failure of the Gallipoli Campaign.[15]

31 May 1915

First air raid on London; an Army Zeppelin dropped bombs over north and east London killing seven civilians.[16]

July 1915

Women's War Agricultural Committees established to encourage more women to work on the land.[17]

2 July 1915

The Munitions of War Act 1915 becomes law, regulating the wages, hours and conditions of munitions workers. It becomes an offence for a worker to leave employment at a "Controlled Establishment" without the consent of the employer.

15 July 1915

National Registration Act 1915 was passed, requiring all men and women between the ages of 15 and 65 to register their address.[18]
A member of the Women's Hospital Corps in London, 1915.

17 July 1915

Emmeline Pankhurst leads a "Women's Right to Serve" demonstration in Trafalgar Square, London.[19]

3 September 1915

Lieutenant Leefe Robinson flying a BE2 biplane, shoots down the first German airship over British soil. The Schütte-Lanz SL 11, which had been bombing north London and Saint Albans, crashed in flames at Cuffley in Hertfordshire.[15]

16 October 1915

Start enrolment for the Derby Scheme which encouraged men of military eligibility to voluntarily attest their willingness to join the armed forces at a later date. After attesting, men were placed on the Class B army reserve list until required. In return, they received a day's army pay and a khaki brassard which they could wear with their civilian clothes.

15 December 1915

Finish of the Derby Scheme (originally planned for 30 November); although 2,950,514 men had attested, enlisted or tried to enlist during the scheme, a further 2,060,927 eligible men had refused to do so, increasing pressure for conscription.[20]


A government poster explaining how male workers can apply for exemption from conscription.

2 March 1916

Military Service Act 1916 comes into force, introducing compulsory conscription in Great Britain but not Ireland. Men from 18 to 41 years old were liable to be called up for service in the army unless they were married, widowed with children, serving in the Royal Navy, a minister of religion, or working in one of a number of reserved occupations. Local Military Service Tribunals could grant exemption from service, usually conditional or temporary.

2 April 1916

An explosion at a munitions factory in Faversham kills 115 workers.

24–29 April 1916

Easter Uprising by Irish Nationalists in Dublin.[15]

21 May 1916

Daylight saving introduced in Britain, to save fuel for lighting and encourage longer working hours.[15]

5 June 1916

Lord Kitchener dies when the cruiser, HMS Hampshire, which is carrying him to Russia, hits a mine and sinks off the coast off the coast of Scotland. Lloyd George succeeds him as Secretary of State for War.[15]

10 August 1916

London première of The Battle of the Somme, giving audiences their first realistic impression of a modern battlefield. It is estimated that 20 million Britons had seen the film during the first six weeks of its release.[21]

5 December 1916

Lloyd George resigns as Minister of War, after Asquith fails to agree Lloyd George's plan for a new "War Council", prompting Asquith's resignation as Prime Minister the next day.[15]
David Lloyd George became prime minister on 7 December 1916.

7 December 1916

David Lloyd George forms a new coalition government.

22 December 1916

The first Ministry of Food was established under a food controller who, under the New Ministries and Secretaries Act 1916, was empowered to regulate the supply and consumption of food and take steps for encouraging food production. The Ministry was dissolved on 31 March 1921.


19 January 1917

An explosion at a munitions factory in Slivertown, West Ham, kills 73 people.

2 February 1917

Corn Production Act 1917 guarantees minimum prices for staple food crops and lays down minimum wages for agricultural workers. It also initiates a "compulsory plough policy" which can force landowners to cultivate their land.[22]
Women's Land Army farm workers in Hertfordshire, 1917.

March 1917

A shortage of wheat leads to the introduction of "Government bread", which contains a proportion of flour made from oats, barley, rye or even potatoes.[23]
Women's Land Army and Women's Forestry Corps are established.[17]

28 March 1917

Ministry of National Service is established.[24]

21 May 1917

The first National Kitchen is opened by Queen Mary in Westminster Bridge Road, London, providing cheap meals for those affected by food shortages.[25]
A German Gotha G.IV bomber in flight, 1917.

25 May 1917

First raid on England by German Gotha heavy bomber aircraft at Folkestone in Kent.[24]

29 May 1917

A royal proclamation issued by King George V encourages a voluntary reduction in bread consumption.[24]

13 June 1917

First attack on London by German heavy bombers; 104 civilians were killed, including 18 children at an Upper North Street School in Poplar.[26]

July 1917

The Metropolitan Police introduce their first air raid warning system, which consists of police officers detonating maroons (a type of loud firework) and the "all clear" to be sounded by Boy Scout buglers.[27]

17 July 1917

A royal proclamation issued by George V declares: "Our House and Family shall be styled and known as the House and Family of Windsor", thus renouncing their German titles.
"A Good Riddance": a cartoon in Punch magazine showing King George V sweeping away his German titles in July 1917.

4 September 1917

First night-time bomber raid on London.[28]

2 November 1917

The Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, makes his "Declaration" of the British intention to provide "a national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine, which is being captured from the Ottoman Empire.[24]

17 December 1917

Residents of Pontypool are issued with ration cards for sugar, tea, butter and margarine.[29]

29 November 1917

Former cabinet minister, Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th Marquess of Lansdowne, writes a letter to the Daily Telegraph appealing for a peaceful settlement to the war which would become known as the "Lansdowne Letter".[24]

31 December 1917

National sugar rationing is introduced.[24]


A recruit to the Women's Royal Naval Service learning the parts of a rifle from a Royal Marine at the Crystal Palace depot.

January 1918

Women's Royal Naval Service is established.[30]

1 January 1918

Food rationing on certain items introduced in Birmingham, soon followed by other major towns and cities.[29]

5 January 1918

Lloyd George makes his War Aims speech to trades union leaders, setting out the government's terms for peace with the Central Powers.[24]

16 February 1918

First 1,000 kilogram (2,205 pound) bomb is dropped on London during the twelfth night bomber raid.[31]

25 February 1918

Start of rationing of meat and fats in London and the Home Counties.[24]

1 April 1918

Women's Royal Air Force is established.[24]

18 April 1918

Military Service (No. 2) Act 1918 extends conscription up to age 50 and to residents of Ireland; although the latter is never implemented because of the Conscription Crisis.[24]
A mother and son view the remains of their home after an air raid in London.

19 May 1918

The "Whitsun Raid" the largest and last of 17 bomber aeroplane raids on London;[31] 49 civilians are killed in London and Essex.[26] The total number of civilian casualties from air raids since 1915 within London's Metropolitan Police District was 668 killed and 1,938 injured.[32]

10 June 1918

Representation of the People Act 1918 gives the vote to women over 30.

31 August 1918

Metropolitan Police go on strike.

28 October 1918

Peak mortality of the Spanish flu pandemic in the UK.[24]

11 November 1918

Lloyd George announces that an armistice has been signed and that hostilities will cease at 11 am. Church bells are rung and the Royal Family appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace before cheering crowds.[33]
Crowds outside Buckingham Palace on Armistice Day, 11 November 1918.


  1. "Declarations of War from Around the World: Germany". Law Library of Congress. 31 July 1914. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  2. Keith M. Wilson, "The British Cabinet's decision for war, 2 August 1914." Review of International Studies 1.2 (1975): 148-159.
  3. Baker, Chris. "Sir Edward Grey's speech on the eve of war: 3 August 1914". www.1914-1918.net. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  4. Beckett (2006) p. 216
  5. Baker, Chris. "Proclamations that mobilised the army". www.1914-1918.net. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  6. Baker, Chris. "Was my soldier in "Kitchener's Army"?". Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  7. Doyle p.24
  8. Beckett (2006) p. 39
  9. Beckett (1985) p. 15
  10. Beckett (2006) p. 153
  11. Doyle p. 25
  12. Doyle p. 26
  13. Beckett (2006) pp. 22–23
  14. Castle, Ian. "Zeppelin Raids, Gothas and 'Giants' – 16th April 1915 – Kent". www.iancastlezeppelin.co.uk. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  15. Beckett (2006) p. 217
  16. Castle, Ian. "Zeppelin Raids, Gothas and 'Giants' – 31st May 1915 – London". www.iancastlezeppelin.co.uk. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  17. Beckett (2006) p. 75
  18. Doyle p. 35
  19. Beckett (2006) p. 80
  20. "The Derby Scheme". Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  21. Beckett (2006) p. 173
  22. Beckett (2006) pp. 112–113
  23. Beckett (2006) p. 116
  24. Beckett (2006) p. 218
  25. Beckett (2006) p. 124
  26. Doyle p. 29
  27. Beckett (2006) p. 187
  28. Castle & Hook p. 7
  29. "Food Rationing". www.hibbert-assembly.org.uk. Hibbert Trust. Retrieved 15 August 2015.
  30. Beckett (2006) p. 73
  31. Castle & Hook p. 8
  32. White p. 252
  33. "BBC History – Daily Mirror Headlines: Armistice, Published 12 November 1918". BBC. Retrieved 15 August 2015.