Home Front

Home Front

Lance Corporal W Smart, Armadale, with his wife and family. He was killed on the first day of the Somme, 1 July 1917. Photo courtesy of Mr Jim Ferguson.
The whole population was required to 'do its bit'.

The First World War was the first war which affected the whole population; the whole population was required to 'do its bit'.

Every man woman and child on the home front in West Lothian had to save food, raise funds, do without and learn to exercise 'thrift'.  Women and older men had to step in to replace the young men taken by the army; and adults and children alike raised immense sums of money for war charities and other good causes.

As always, it was the young men who fought, but their families had to bear the anxiety about the fate, and often the grief of their loss.  And for the first time, even those on the home front were subject to enemy attacks. None of these attacks directly fell on West Lothian, though it was at risk because of its closeness to the Forth naval base and the Forth Bridge. There was one Zeppelin raid over Edinburgh and another in Aberdeenshire.

Even in families with no loved ones at the front, the war was not an easy time. There were constant irritating restrictions, shortages and queues, rising prices, war weariness and near despair at the endless slaughter.

Yet often the war brought out the best in the population – people uncomplainingly worked long hours in factories and in voluntary war work; they reduced the amount of food they ate and the other goods that they consumed, they went without holidays and luxuries; they raised huge amounts of funds for charity and tirelessly supported the wounded soldiers at Bangour War Hospital and the auxiliary Red Cross hospitals in the county.

And just when they thought the worst was over and the war was coming to an end, the flu epidemic brought even more tragic deaths among the young.

©West Lothian Local History Library

To find out more about the Home Front or other aspects of West Lothian during the First World War, email localhistory@westlothian.gov.uk.