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Updated: Jul 9, 2023

Sex and war is not a subject that readily springs to mind when discussing the First World War. It is an uncomfortable subject for many and is on the margins of British history of the First World War. What is of surprise is not that there was sexual activity along the Western Front, but that it has not been explored in any real detail. This article explores the subject, for more detailed reading see the Sources and Further reading at the end of this Article.

The Sanctity of Tommy

Much of the literature of the First World War, until fairly recently, has been about protecting the image of the Tommy and his reputation. He has been sanctified in the writings of poets and there is a subconscious desire not to denigrate his memory as we are talking about our relatives. We cannot contemplate the men being guilty of any perceived sin. We cannot contemplate that homosexuality existed across the ranks. That Tommy was guilty of the looting of homes, killing of prisoners of war, robbing of their dead comrades, alcoholism, gambling, and of fornication. None were capable of immorality. But they were. Gerard DeGroot in his book Blighty: British Society in the Era of the Great War noted this ingrained sanctity and protection of the saintly memory of the Tommy from the negative reaction to the BBC TV series The Monocled Mutineer: ‘the idea of a Tommy who cheated, lied, fornicated and mutinied was abhorrent.’ The narrative to date has been of a generation thrown away in the mud and trenches of Flanders by incompetent Generals and that the soldier was a knight in shining armour. A hero. The uncomfortable truth has been downplayed and ignored not from any conspiracy by professional historians but more from not wishing to recognise uncomfortable facts. The sexual proclivities and adventures of Tommy have been hidden by the historians focus on the front line and the trench life with everything being seen from the bottom of the trench. Historians have been busy writing about the action of the Liverpool Pals, The Buffs, the Highland Light Infantry or focusing on the Somme, to the exclusion of all else. They have ignored the fact that the army had a long supply tail and that the vast majority of men never saw a front-line trench. The Poor Bloody Infantry have dominated the narrative over all with other regiments such as the Army Service Corps, by far the largest of all regiments, being ignored. The infantry spent less than half their time in the trenches the remainder of their time on rest or in the billeting areas. A veil has been drawn over the sex life of Tommy behind the lines.

Prostitutes, France, Flanders, Ypres Salient Battlefields, Belgium

Sex crimes under the Army Act

The Army Act regulations that covered sexual offences were:

Sec 16 – Disgraceful Conduct (behaves in a scandalous manner, unbecoming the character of an officer and a gentleman)

Sec.36 – Indecent Assault on Female

Sec 37 – Rape

Sec 38 – Carnal Knowledge (mostly with young women under 16)

Sec 39 – Procuration (women or girl under 21 to have unlawful carnal connection)

Sec 40 – Any act, conduct, disorder, or neglect, to the prejudice of good order and military discipline

Sec 42 - Sodomy

Sec 43 – Indecency/Gross Indecency (with another male person)

Sec 79 - Bigamy

If there was any doubt involving other ranks the army went to the catch all Sec. 40 and for officers Sec. 16.

Sex and War: The British Tommy

Sex was readily available to those who had the time and money and this was predominantly the officers. Reading the accounts from the men the subject of sex is mentioned on a regular basis. There is mention of the red lamp brothels the army’s officially sanctioned brothels. In their memoirs the men regale their readers with recollections of the soldier’s sex lives. Richard Holmes, in his book Tommy recounts the story of one NCO who had a wife in England announcing at the end of the war that he would stay in France to marry his mistress who owned a fish and chip shop. Soldiers were either determinedly moral or they quickly discovered a dormant appetite for casual sex and for some the need and urgency grew with the increasing danger. During Second Ypres one soldier’s lasting memory as he went up the line is of seeing a Highlander, his kilt pulled up, having sex with a shop girl. In his book Unwilling Passenger published in 1936, Arthur Osburn, a medical officer, observed that: ‘Plants and animals and men, when stress or privation threaten the extinction of their species, will hastily, even prematurely, ‘cast their seed’. The last fling by the young conscript in the brothels of Swansea or Havre before he went up to the shambles of Ypres was due to an instinctive urge: for the very young soldier it was probably his first fling, as it might be his last.

In Old Soldier’s Never Die, Frank Richards recounted: ‘On arrival at a new station, we pre-war soldiers always made enquiries as to what sort of place it was for booze and fillies. If both were in abundance it was a glorious place from our point of view.’ John F Tucker, a seventeen-year-old who enlisted in the London Kensington Regiment, remembers in his diary published under the title Johnny Get Your Gun, of arriving in Saffron Walden on a route march to the camp in 1915: ‘The inhabitants were mostly Quakers, who kept their daughters out of sight. We hardly saw a young girl all the time we were there.’ Other men saw women as a ‘symbol of all that we were missingand that the longing was ‘sensuous as opposed to sensual.’ Bruce Cherry recounts in his book They Didn’t Want to Die as Virgins a report that featured in the De Poperinghe Keikop of a: ‘jam potten (Tommy) who made inappropriate sexual remarks to young girls in a procession to their first communion.’ The need for sex was not just restricted to the old soldiers of the professional army like Frank Richards, it was found in the new army conscripts and volunteers and across all classes, cultures, and race. Ellen La Motte, the American nurse, in her account ‘Backwash of War’ tells of the male doctors having their women who they went to once per week, one she claimed had a ‘beautiful 14-year-old,’ and they also used prostitutes with the incumbent price of catching VD. Female nurses and drivers were hotly pursued. In his book ‘The War the Infantry Knew’ Captain J C Dunn recalls the quartermaster of the 2nd Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers, Captain Yates, looking for billets in La Panne in August 1917, he shone his torch into a doorway to find: ‘two nurses, each with a squire in very close attendance. Yates was told to ‘get out’…’I’m an officer, a lieutenant,’ said one of the squires. ‘Well,’ said Yates, in his diluted Lancashire, ‘I’m a captain, but I don’t want to spoil sport, just to find my billet.


The term used was sodomy and was covered under the Army Act, Sec. 42, homosexual is a relatively new term, was a sex crime in the eyes of the army and indeed of Edwardian society at large. The army tolerated regulated prostitution because they feared homosexuality and the effects on troop efficiency and morale. At the time homosexuality was an offensive against the civil and military law, between 4 August 1914 and 31 March 1920, 23 officers and 293 other ranks were court martialled for indecency on active service. The number of courts martials is low. Firstly, as homosexual officers and men suppressed their desires, at what cost will never be known. Secondly, there was often a clear understanding that soldiers in a monogamous relationship should not be prosecuted. David Jones in his poem In Parenthesis wrote of a homosexual couple in his company, and at the battles end how: ‘… Bates without Coldpepper Digs like a Bunyan muck-raker for his weight of woe.’ Thirdly, it was often easy enough for officers to masturbate in a two-man room in a hut, or for private soldiers to do the same in the dark recesses of a tent or a dugout. Eric Hiscock in The Bells of Hell Go Ting-a-Ling-a-Ling wrote of relieving his stress with: ‘Brook, Jackson and myself all had some homosexual tendencies, and in the days and nights of stress we masturbated, but kisses on unshaven faces were rare and then only at moments of acute danger.’ Osburn in Unwilling Passenger held the view that some officers and men deliberately admitted to the offence in order to be court-martialled with the resulting conviction being two years in a British prison. He heard one officer state on a crowded leave train: ‘I’ve had two years of the War, and that’s as much as I can stand. I intend to get out of it this time even if I have to arrange to be caught red-handed in someone else’s bunk!’ A Lieutenant Colonel at the time, Osburn reported it to an Assistant Provost Marshal at Poperinge who did nothing and claimed he did nothing as it was a well-recognised ruse. As well as those who suppressed their homosexuality there were the higher profile men who came out men such as Siegfried Sassoon, J.C. Ackerley, Ivor Gurney, T.E, Lawrence, Wilfred Owen, Ivor Novello, and Christopher Isherwood. The true numbers of homosexual love and same sex encounters will never be known.


Fraternisation between local women and Tommy was a common occurrence given the nature of the close proximity of the rest area camps and the troops being billeted on the local communities. Local priest and diarist Achiel Van Walleghem felt: ‘... so many daughters in Dikkebus and surroundings who behave scandalously. Some flaunting their virtue, others alas, let themselves be seduced by cunning and deceptive language, by the shiny uniform of the officers and most of all by their money.’ According Father Auguste Benoot the blame was not with Tommy: ‘who has the right to go conquer the soul and heart of the women of Poperinghe; they are after all human beings ….He blamedThose Poperinghe Misses who have adopted the habits of the big cities.’ He thought that there would no problem if they simply behaved themselves. This fraternisation could be defined by the expectations and prejudices of the soldier as a well as their first experiences.

For the majority of Tommy's this was their first time in a foreign land. The vast majority were not well travelled even at home. They were in the main from working class communities where they lived or died within a ten-mile radius of where they called home. For those workers who lived in the Scottish central belt industrial complex of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Lanark, Fife, and Ayrshire those who could afford a holiday went on the traditional one-week Glasgow Fair or Edinburgh Trades coastal holiday, usually taken in July. To the working-class Tommy their view of France, in particular, was shaped by British imperial history, the French were seen as immoral and sexually explicit. These stereotypes were carried across the channel in August 1914, and the French and Flemish cultures did not reflect their British moral code. Indeed, the Tommy and their officers mistrusted the Flemish population because they spoke a language that to them was a form of German. They were suspected of spying for the Germans. In his diary, which was later published under the title The War Diaries of the Master of Belhaven, Lt Col. The Hon. R G A Hamilton was not overly delighted to be back in Belgium: ‘Today I have been quite busy as I had to go round the ten farms occupied by the squadron and pay the weekly bills for forage, etc. … They are not really French but Flemish, though most of them speak French fairly well. I am depressed beyond words at being back in this vile country: I hate the Belgians and Belgium. We are billeted in a filthy farm, full of squealing children, and dirty beyond words, It is like all the farms in Flanders, only a little worse... the usual depressing Belgian weather: mud and dirt everywhere. The people of the farm are, of course, pro-German. I have no doubt they would betray us if they got half a chance. I have warned everyone that they are now in hostile country.'

These prejudices and expectations are reinforced by Private Burrage in War is War: ‘They thought nothing of recommending their female friends and relatives for a purpose which, if specifically named, would bring a blush of shame to the cheek of Innocence.’ Tucker, in Johnny Get Your Gun remembered an embarrassing experience at Merville in France when he was billeted in a semi-detached house and next door was a French family with a ‘good looking daughter of 17: The primitive loo at the end of the garden accommodated both houses, the wooden seats being separated by a partition only 4ft. high. I was seated more or less comfortably when the girl marched down the path, looking straight ahead as if I had not been present and to my consternation entered and seated herself within about 18 inches of me. I was too surprised and embarrassed to move until she had left.’ Cherry in They Didn’t Want To Die As Virgins quotes from the diary of local Poperinghe musician Albert Baert who thought: ‘that the local girls showed a preference for the soldiers over the indigenous male.

The local women also took the initiative and they also encouraged the soldier Ralph H Mottram in Through the Menin Gate: ‘if one has to blame Tommy for misdemeanour, then equal blame must be attached to the womenfolk – for it is in most cases six of one and half a dozen of another.’

France, belgium, Prostitute in Flanders, Ypres Salient Battlefields, Belgium

Prostitution and Venereal Disease

At home the authorities took various steps in an attempt to halt the upward trend of the figures of VD cases. In 1916, the Royal Commission on Venereal Diseases estimated that in working class areas of London 8 to 12 per cent of men and 3 to 7 per cent of women were infected with syphilis and gonorrhoea. The 1916 Public Health (Venereal Diseases) Regulation Act established a network of clinics that offered free confidential diagnosis and treatment. Edwardians had viewed VD as something that infected men gave to unsuspecting women however, now they viewed it as something that brazen harlots gave to the brave Tommies. In 1918, Regulation 40D of the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) made it illegal for women infected with VD to have sexual intercourse with a serviceman. The woman with VD who slept with their serviceman husband could be arrested for having sex with him, even though he may have infected her in the first place! Condoms were available to control the spread of VD however, this merely provoked a debate that they encouraged immorality, despite the near epidemic levels of VD. The increased use of condoms within the middle class married couples showed that they were being used for enjoying sex rather sex being seen as merely for procreation.

Venereal disease was a serious problem with the numbers high enough to cause the British military authorities serious concern firstly for manpower and secondly for the spread of the disease in France and Flanders. Statistics show that, from 1914 to 1918, 153,531 British and dominion troops in France and Belgium were admitted to hospital with gonorrhoea, syphilis, or other forms of VD. In 1916 the number of cases represented 19.24 per cent of all admissions. The British army reported 416,891 hospital admissions for VD during the course of the war, with a stay in hospital lasting up to fifty days making the issue as much about manpower as medicine. Eric Hiscock in The Bells of Hell Go Ting-a-Ling-a-Ling mentions ‘a short arm inspectionof the men before they boarded the boat carrying those demobbed back to Folkestone. Soldiers who became infected had to report it and were then sent to special hospitals and their pay was stopped, as married men had allotments paid to their wives this hospitalisation affected marriages.

French cartoon. Ypres Salient Battlefields, Belgium
Short arm inspection. French cartoon

Example: Falkirk District man - Private Thomas Beattie, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, ‘B’ Company, 2nd Battalion, 98th Infantry Brigade, 33rd Division.

Thomas had a checkered military career. He was fined 2/6 for drunkenness on 30 September 1914. On the 19 October, he was fined 10/- for drunkenness and again on 26 October. On this occasion he was sentenced not just to a 10/- fine but also 15 days detention. From the 11 to 15 July 1915, he was absent and forfeited 4 days pay. On 10 August 1915, he was awaiting trial by General Divisional Court Martial for desertion. He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, and this was commuted to 12 months on 23 August 1915. He was imprisoned in the detention barracks at Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow. On the 8 March 1916, he received 31 days remission and then a further 154 days special remission and released. He spent one night on 15 April 1916 in the Military Hospital in Edinburgh Castle with Gonorrhoea. He was then transferred on 16 April to the hospital at Glencourse Barracks where he spent a further three nights. He was transferred again to the Workhouse Military Hospital in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and spent the period 19 April to 16 May 1916 there recovering from Gonorrhoea. On the 28 August 1916, he was posted to his battalion. Thomas was wounded on 2 November 1916, shell splinter wound to the left thigh, and spent from 10 November 1916 to 7 February 1917, recuperating at a hospital in England. He rejoined his regiment on 28 February 1917, being posted from 19th Infantry Base Depot at Etaples to the 2nd Battalion. He was killed in action on 24 November 1917 and is listed on the Tyne Cot Memorial Panel 141 to 143.

Any soldier failing to declare being infected with VD was committing an offence under military law which was punishable with prison sentences of up to two years with hard labour. The establishment of early treatment centres, where the men could treat themselves, did go someway to helping, as did the army’s official brothels the ‘red lamps.’ One of these official brothels located in Rouen was visited by 171,000 men in the first year with only 243 cases of VD reported. John F Tucker recounts a visit to the brothel in Rouen in August 1915: ‘Out of curiosity we visited the Red Lamp district and entered one establishment, a large almost bare hall with red walls and some very insipid wall paintings. It was quite deserted for some reason and looked very dingy and we soon left, making our way back to camp.’ However, these brothels were politically sensitive and after opposition from home it was closed. Tucker visited another brothel this time in St Omer: ‘Some of us visited the Red Lamp so satisfy our curiosity. There was also a Green Lamp (these were Blue Lamp brothels) which I believe was reserved for officers. Inside a large hall or room, with a staircase. The madame sat at a raised cashier’s desk to collect the five or ten francs. The place was fairly full of troops, sitting around on chairs. A few girls were walking about in short flimsy shifts, and occasionally would escort a client upstairs. Those descending would make their way out to join their friends, more or less sheepishly and the girl would sit on a knee here and there seeking another client. We cleared off after a minute or two, having no inclination to join in the sordid proceedings.

How was VD Controlled in Flanders

Unlike in France, were army sanctioned brothels operated, in the unoccupied part of Belgian West Flanders, there were moves early on in the conflict to control and tighten the regulation of prostitution. These early regulations and controls were primarily aimed at the Belgian soldier and keeping them healthy. Belgium had regulated brothels, the Municipal Law, Article 96, of 1836 gave local authorities the powers to supervise both people and places used for fornication. This law was used to protect the safety, morality and public peace and introduced sanitation aimed at controlling VD. This law and the regulation lapsed although the power available to local authorities still existed. It wasn’t until the increase of cases of VD, which coincided with the influx of refugees into the unoccupied part of West Flanders in late 1914, did the need to reintroduce controls in early 1915 become necessary. In They Didn’t Want to Die Virgins, Bruce Cherry highlights a report, contained in the official Belgian records, of a visit of the Commander of the Belgian Territorial National Guard to an area of Ypres still inhabited and were ‘having learned that English soldiers have been affected with venereal diseases.’ The report was copied to the British HQ. The report mentions actions put in place once an infected woman has been identified. The ‘denounced woman is subject to a judicial order, she is removed and treated, and the landlord of the music hall, house etc is himself prosecuted.’ With the report also sent to the British HQ it can be assumed that the visit to the area concerned was at the instigation of the British authorities. The soldier was to denounce the women who had infected him which would allow the police commissioner to enforce an inspection of the infected woman by a doctor from the vice squad and her removal to a special VD hospital. These measures were extended to the remaining areas of unoccupied West Flanders.

Following a meeting in Poperinghe of the local mayors, in February 1915, they established a free clinic for women to attend to receive treatment and care in the asylum, the House of the Incurables on the Elverdinghe to Poperinghe Road, this is now the municipal swimming pool on Bruggestraat. This free clinic was to have been the first of many. The psychiatric hospital in the Market Square in Ypres was closed and the patients moved to this location. The regulations were enforced by the Belgian police assisted by the Assistant Provost Marshal and all denounced women had to report before a medical panel. The Poperinghe police did not have a vice squad and the British military authorities were asked to provide a doctor. All the women were issued with a passbook and had to attend a twice weekly inspection and those infected with VD were removed from the area for treatment. Prostitutes were banned from attending concerts and places of entertainment, standing on street corners, and soliciting by engaging soldiers in conversation. The British army accepted that prostitution existed and were prepared to accept a live and let live approach so long as sanitary procedures and regulations existed. However, there were those within the army who did not accept this. In They Didn’t Want to Die Virgins, Bruce Cherry mentions a letter to HQ from a Captain Howells, a Guards officer, who thought that the introduction of the regulations in Poperinghe ‘constituted a grave danger to troops billeted in, and in the environs, of the town.’ He went onIt is well recognised that the institution of ‘Licensed Prostitution’ had had no effect in reducing the incidence of venereal disease amongst the nations that have established the same.

The town council in Poperinghe were less than enthusiastic in enforcing the regulations. They answered an official enquiry as to why they had taken so long to implement them by stating in their answer that there were no public women in the town. Difficult to believe given the officers’ cafes and restaurants in the Grote Markt and the area just behind the Markt was the area known as Petit Paris that catered for the other ranks sexual needs. In the brothels here were women from outside of the area who had arrived as refugees. John Lewis-Stempl recounted in his book about British Junior officers Six Weeks, the Short and Gallant Life of the British Officer in the First World War : ‘The notorious Skindles, meanwhile, was a place in ‘Pop’ for officers in search of a hot meal and a hotter woman in the Salient.’ The local police also turned a blind eye to soliciting with a suspicion that they were sheltering some girls from prosecution in return for sexual favours. All of this was to the frustration of the APM in their dealings with the local police and authorities. One can understand the concerns in Captain Howells letter. The British army was caught unawares and was completely ill prepared to deal with the growing issue of sexual health within the ranks. They adopted the live and let live approach, red lamp official brothels, and regulated prostitution, unless this led to VD infections increasing amongst the ranks, civilian complaints, or an increase in absence amongst the ranks.

Sex, Marriage & War Babies: The Myths

The war took both men and women out of their sheltered environments. Changes in sexual attitudes and behaviour affected men as well as women during the war and rather than the shifts in standards and behaviour, the upheaval of the war reinforced the prejudices and preconceptions. The war did not cause social and behavioural changes in women it hastened those changes already taking place with the commentary on the behaviour of women accelerating those changes. The Edwardian double-standards prevailed and the constraints on women were more severe than those on men, and the question of sexual morality had a special relevance for women. The women’s movement at this time discussed questions of prostitution, venereal disease, illegitimacy, and sex education matters that were often ignored by the male organisations. Sexual awareness was not as openly discussed between males and females as it is today. Modesty and innocence amongst the young were important constraints in the Edwardian period. The main factors that affected the sexual behaviour of women in particular were religious and social restrictions, with those who transgressed being subjected to social ostracism or eternal damnation, with the fear of venereal disease or pregnancy as added consequences.

Among the middle and upper class there was concern over the moral welfare of working-class women and girls by the new conditions brought about by the war. The assumption being that women were weak and gullible and that men were predators looking for the occasion and opportunity to exploit them. Much of this moral outrage was the imagination of the women’s organisations such as the Woman Patrols and the Women’s Police Service who were concerned with areas and locations Dr Beatrix Webb, who was a medical officer in a munitions factory, wrote a book for welfare supervisors based on her observations entitled ‘Health of Working Girls: A Handbook for Welfare Supervisors and Others,’ in which she pointed out two areas of sexual matters that concerned her: masturbation, and sexual consequences of drinking. She hoped that by describing the symptoms of the sufferers of this habit, masturbation, to the welfare supervisors that they might be able to help the women and encourage them to desist. Webb advocated ‘as much help as possible should be given in the way of cold baths, swimming lessons, ample outdoor amusements, many interests, the cutting off for a time of meat, tea and coffee, the giving of alcohol taken.’ According to Webb alcohol exacerbated the tendency to masturbate. She also felt that alcohol was responsible for ‘about half the crimes against morality,’ by this she meant illegitimate births.

War Babies

Allegations of rampant war babies were made by the middle and upper classes who saw this as sexual licence amongst the working class and they were assisted by the press sensationalising the increase in child births in the spring of 1915. In a letter to the Morning Post in April 1915, that was quoted and embellished in the press throughout the UK, Conservative MP Mr Ronald McNeill alleged that in districts where there was large numbers of troops billeted a large number of girls were about to become unmarried mothers. One way of determining the extent of sexual activity, particularly for the working class whose access to birth control was limited compared to other classes, is to look at the birth rate. Diana Gittins in her book, In Fair Sex: Family Size and Structure, 1900 –39, found that in the years 1910 to 1919 60 percent of the middle class, 39 per cent of skilled workers, and 33 per cent of the unskilled were using birth control. Of these, 15 per cent of the middle class used birth control appliances, compared to 11 per cent of skilled workers and 5 per cent of unskilled workers. Working class birth control is probably underrepresented as coitus interruptus was not considered a birth control method.

Births per 1,000 of Total Population 1913-20

Source: On Her Their Lives Depend, P.147

Angela Woollacott

War Babies: Falkirk District

The figures shown above do not substantiate the claims that there was a surge in illegitimate births or war babies. In one area of Falkirk District for the period 1914 to 1918, we see that in 1915 the number of illegitimate births were 14 that is double the rate in 1914. In 1916 there were 13 illegitimate births. The total number of births registered in the period 1913 to 1918 fell from 322 in 1913 to 218 in 1918, with a slight increase in 1919 to 245. The number of illegitimate births in 1919 was 21 with 18 occurring in the period June to December, a result of the men coming home!

Scotland saw a post-war bounce in births, so much so that 1920 was, and still remains, a record year. Almost 137,000 children were registered that year, 31,000 (29.7 per cent) more than the average of those of the preceding five years. This 'baby boom' was far more dramatic than the boom experienced at the end of the Second World War or in the 1960s. 1915 saw a low illegitimate birth rate and a high marriage rate. In Scotland there were just over 35,000 marriages registered in 1914, which at the time was the largest number of marriages ever registered in Scotland in one year, exceeding the peak recorded in 1913 by almost 1400. The majority of marriages in 1914 were registered in the first half of the year, nearly 20,000 from January to July (approximately 1,300, or 6.5 per cent more than in the previous year) while those registered from August to December, after the declaration of war on 4 August, amounted to over 13,000 - very similar to the previous year's number for the corresponding period. If we again take a snapshot of one area of Falkirk District, we find that the number of marriages during the period 1914 to 1918 fell. In 1914 there were 160 similar to the pre-war period, 1915 132 and in 1918 122. In 1919 there was an increase to 162 and in 1920 there were 220 marriages. The table below highlights the increase in marriages in 1915, in England, Wales and Scotland. They went down in the years 1916 and 1917, increasing in 1918, and 1919 saw a boom in marriages.

Marriages per 1,000 of total Population, 1913-20

Source: On Her Their Lives Depend, P.154

Angela Woollacott

For women left at home and whose loved ones were in the armed forces, their relationships were put under great strain with sweethearts, fiancés, and husbands being overseas and their whereabouts, well-being and duties being unknown. For those women who were involved with men out of uniform, they may have had the strain of their partner opposing the war or being declared unfit for service or in protected employment. For young women workers marriage meant independence, domesticity, children, and life centred on their home. It may also have meant an end to wage earning although not all women wanted to give up work or were able to for financial reasons. To women of all classes and ages, the war was a hard lesson in reality and tested their conceptions and beliefs in marriage and sexual morality, with many determined to take what they could while they could.


1. Richard Holmes, Tommy, The British Soldier on the Western Front 1914-1918

2. Major T J Mitchell, Medical Services, Casualties and Statistics

3. Bruce Cherry, They Didn’t Want to Die Virgins, Sex and Morale in the British Army on the Western Front 1914-18

4. Ian W Beckett & Keith Simpson, A Nation In Arms, The British Army in the First World


5. Angela Woollacott, On Her Their Lives Depend

6. Gerard J DeGroot, Blighty, British Society in the Era of the Great War

7. Diana Gittins, In Fair Sex: Family Size and Structure, 1900 –39

8. Beatrix Webb, Health of Working Girls: A Handbook for Welfare Supervisors and Others

9. Eric Hiscock, The Bells of Hell Go Ting-a-Ling-a-Ling

10. David Jones, In Parenthesis

11. Robert Graves, Goodbye To All that

12. Frank Richards, Old Soldiers Never Die

13. Captain J C Dunn, The War the Infantry Knew

14. John F Tucker, Johnny Get Your Gun, A Personal Narrative of The Somme, Ypres & Arras

15. Lt Col. The Hon. R G A Hamilton, The War Diaries of the Master of Belhaven

16. Ralph H Mottram, Through the Menin Gate

17. John Lewis-Stempl Six Weeks, the Short and Gallant Life of the British Officer in the First World War

18. Ellen La Motte, The Backwash of War: An Extraordinary American Nurse in World

War I

19. Arthur Osburn, Unwilling Passenger

20. British Newspaper Archive, The Falkirk Herald

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