As the scale and the duration of the First World War escalated, the priority for every combatant nation was to ensure that their armed forces had sufficient weaponry, supplies and equipment.

In Britain, the newly-created Ministry of Munitions assumed authority over all elements of war production, from appropriating raw materials to building new factories. Among the Central Powers, the military generally took control of industry. With so many men in the armed forces, women were increasingly called upon to 'serve' in the factories. But despite the widespread support for the war and improvement in wages experienced by many workers, discontent over pay and conditions caused industrial unrest.

Photographs

National Filling Factory, Chilwell, Nottinghamshire, July 1917

A woman drives a trolley train across a busy factory floor at the National Filling Factory, Chilwell. The trolley is loaded with shells and is used to transport the shells from one part of the factory to another. Around 21 August, 1917.
© IWM (Q 30023)

A woman drives a trolley train across a busy factory floor at the National Filling Factory, Chilwell. The trolley is loaded with shells and is used to transport the shells from one part of the factory to another. Around 21 August, 1917.

The effectiveness of the escalation in war production is illustrated by the quantities of material manufactured: Britain alone produced nearly four million rifles, a quarter of a million machine guns, 52,000 aeroplanes, 25,000 artillery pieces and over 170 million rounds of artillery shells by the end of the war.

Every combatant army on the fighting fronts was dependent on its civilian army in the factories on the home front to sustain it in the pursuit of victory.

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