By Timothy Boyd, Andrew Ingle and Simon Du Plessis.

World War One was never a fun time for anybody whether it was men on the battlefront the women at home or the children on the playground. Here we discuss the positive and negative experiences for both men and women and the way women were treated differently from before, during and after the war.


Source A. A book written about an Italian soldier.

There were very few but undoubtedly there were some positive aspects around World War One. Firstly, the main point that changed many people lives was the acceptance of women. Women were now being relied on to take over the men‘s jobs while they were fighting on the front line. Also they were asked to help cure and take care of the injured soldiers in the hospitals. This changed the social attitude towards women until this day. Also there was a much greater respect for all workers in the factories after the war. They were relied on to manufacture the weapons for the soldiers. Although the war was horrendous it brought about great friendships that would last for a very long time after the war. Also a greater awareness of the horrors of war was realised and although this did not stop World War 2, the amount of conflict has decreased ever since.


Source B. A diary entry from a British soldier called John T French

The negative aspects of the First World War were mainly found in the trenches on the front line. Many soldiers didn’t even die from a bullet or shell explosion. There was an insufficient amount of water and food, the soldiers were freezing due to the low temperatures and extreme weather conditions and there were many diseases like cholera and trench foot[1]. Trench warfare was hated as it took months on end just to gain a couple metres of ground. Civilians became a military target. Many innocent people were killed and families were torn apart. People were exploited as workers in factories, especially women during the war.

recruitment poster

Source C. A recruitment poster put up in London, encouraging young men to join the army.

When the war first broke out the women were forced to work to support their family whilst the men were fighting on the front line. The women went through tough labour and extreme conditions with low pay. At the beginning of 1914 there were about 5,9 million out of 23,7 million women working in the factories helping to produce weapons, planes, etc. The women worked as domestic servants. Approximately 900,000 women worked in textiles and 500,000 in “sweated trade”.

Men were forced to fight on the front lines or in the trenches. They suffered from exhaustion, hunger and other diseases because of the lack of food water and warmth in the trenches. Many soldiers were forced into psychiatric treatment after what they went through during the war but they could not always have been helped. The conditions in the trenches were horrible as most men suffered from hyperthermia as it was very cold most of the time; another factor was the rats which carried diseases which killed most of the men in the trenches.

Source D. A poem written about the deaths of the soldiers


If the trenches were close enough, and temporary truce was called so that the two sides could shout insults at each other!





[1] . Trench foot ~ a painful condition of the feet caused by long immersion in cold water or mud and marked by blackening and death of surface tissue.