George V, 1910-1936
THE FIRST WORLD WAR differed radically from the Second in that neither soldiers nor civilians really knew what they were going into. Despite the lessons of the Boer War and Haldane's reforms the British army was utterly inadequate in numbers and equipment. The nation had not seen war close at hand for a hundred years and a short decisive campaign was generally expected. Everywhere in the fall of 1914 well-informed people were saying that the war could not last beyond six months because men could not be made to face modern artillery and machinegun fire for longer and because the cost in lives and money would be too heavy for even the great powers to bear. They tragically underestimated human endurance of these things.
The response of the nation was better than some of the politicians expected but was not altogether admirable. There was a great deal of cheap, rhetorical patriotism that vented itself in the hounding of anyone suspected of slacking by those whose lives were undisturbed. "Business as usual" with its bluff suggestion of an imperturbable people was too often a cover for profiteering or pleasure-seeking. The national church failed lamentably to understand or meet the needs of the fighting men. In the first months a gulf widened between soldiers and civilians that caused men on leave to feel themselves in an alien world whose gaiety