The severe shortage of munitions during the First World War increased the level of casualties in the battlefields; prevented the breakthrough of the German defences thus continuing a war of attrition; brought about the downfall of the great Liberal Government of the early twentieth century; and placed the British public on a total war footing for the first time in history. The British Shell Shortage of the First World War looks at shell manufacture and views the military and political battles of 1915, a time when decisions made by a government whose ideology was not compatible to war, had to answer for their decisions and management since war was declared.
It details the battles of Neuve Chapelle and Aubers Ridge from the perspective of The Rifle Brigade, whose casualties in the latter battle was the catalyst of The Times article that resulted in a coalition government and the creation of a Ministry of Munitions. The political and military casualties are explained, along with the innovative creation of the Munitions Ministry, which led the way for industrial conscription, ensuring that the whole country stood behind their fighting men.
BRITISH SHELL SHORTAGE OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR
At the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915, British gunners fired more shells in one half hour bombardment than during the whole of the Boer War. However, back at home there was a shortage of men to make the shells and a shortage of acetone, to make cordite for the shells. Britain had enough guns but it was running out of munitions. The ‘Shell Crisis’ had hit the British war effort.By May 1915, British guns had been rationed and there was a very real possibility that the War could be lost. In Parliament the Conservative opposition forced the Liberal Government into creating a coalition to deal with the crisis.