Armistice in 1918 presented the British government with an enormous challenge how could the British army that had been built up on an unprecedented scale during the war be cut back to a peacetime size and how could millions of soldiers be returned to civilian life? In November 1918, the last month of the war, the British army numbered 3.75 million. One year later that number was reduced to 890,000. This was a remarkable feat of demobilisation but, as Michael Senior shows, it was by no means a trouble-free process. He describes in vivid detail how demobilisation took place, the acute difficulties that arose, and how they were dealt with. The obstacles that had to be overcome were legion, and urgent, for the task had to be completed rapidly to prevent social unrest. At the same time prisoners of war had to be repatriated, the wounded and maimed had to be cared for and permanent cemeteries had to be laid out for the battlefield dead. In addition, war materiel had to be disposed and the army had to be reorganised into a force suitable for the challenges of 1919. The task was immense, as were the risks, and Michael Senior’s study makes fascinating reading.
SOLDIERS’ PEACE Demobilising the British Army
“In November 1918… the British Army numbered 3.75 million. One year later that number was reduced to 890,000.” The Soldiers’ Peace tells you how that was achieved. Many ex-servicemen, promised a ‘land fit for heroes’ by the Lloyd George government, suffered when unemployment rose rapidly and the ambitious wartime programme of ‘reconstruction’ was shelved during the 1921 economic slump.