top of page

After 1918  A New World.

When the guns finally fell silent on that November morning in 1918, the world had irrevocably changed, as had the life of every person involved. Some men came home fit and well but pitifully few compared to the hordes who had marched awayt. Whilst the population of Great Britain was still around 42 Million, there was a critical shortage of fit young men, ie. those who did the work and the "breeding stock" for the next generation.

 

Those of us old enough to remember our grandparents generation in the 1950's and 60's will remember the numbers of maiden Aunts and other ageing spinsters who had had their chances of marriage ruined by the war. By 1918 there was a huge imbalance in numbers of young men & young women.

Industry needed just as many workers during and after the war as it had before so with most of the men off fighting, there was an acute manpower shortage for even the most essential industries. There was no choice but horror of horrors, women had to be allowed to take their places and take them they did.

In 1918 when the remains of the Army hobbled back into civilian life, the manpower shortage was still there and was not going to go away for a long time. Hundreds of thousands had been killed and even more wounded both physically and mentally. Every town and village had a group of men who could not re-engage with normal life, they were emotionally flat, apathetic, unable to work or do anything much, the "Shell Shocked" were mere shells of men, physically unharmed but mentally trashed. Some slowly recovered but many did not.

 

Even amongst the less affected many lives and families were ruined as the men tried to blank out their memories. Wives and families suffered as mentally scarred men found solace in drunken violence at home.

During the war itself, out of necessity , women filled in taking many of the jobs normally done by men . The assumption presumably was that after the fighting, the men would come home and back to their old jobs, women would get back to the kitchen sink where they belonged and all would carry on as though nothing had happened.

As it turned out this assumption was just a tad off the mark! The post-war large and seemingly at least, semi-permanent hole in the workforce drove two changes that had long lasting effects. Firstly there being substantial numbers of women in the workforce became a de-facto "New Normal" and there came to be nothing unusual about working wives and mothers. As with everything in the UK back then this was very class dependent.  The jobs that women filled were largely low skilled, low paid jobs. Even where women worked alongside men doing the same job, they were paid less. This has proved to be a difficult thing to eradicate, as recent court cases demonstrate. The second major change driven by the shrunken workforce was a drive to automate many repetitive industrial processes. Labour had traditionally been so cheap that it was pointless investing in machines to do what could be done by a worker paid a pittance. With a shortage of workers they could of course demand, and get, higher wages ( even women !!) so it was in the employer's interest to automate processes where possible so as to limit the wage bill.

For those who did survive reasonably intact and came home with hopes high of a good life in the brave new world an even worse tragedy would descend on them. In 1918 & 1919 the Spanish Flu pandemic killed many times more than the war ever did. Cruelly, unlike most Flu, Covid, SARS and suchlike, the worst mortality was not among the old but among otherwise fit young people.

In 1918 there were 1.6 million men wounded to the extent that they were unfit for further military service. Military service requires a high level of physical fitness, so even by 1918 unfit to fight did not necessarily mean unfit for any form of civilian employment. Estimates very but it is thought that around 600,000 would have been unfit for any work.

The UK population in 1914  had 12.6 million men aged 16-59. Between those killed, those unfit for work and those still needed in the forces there was a deficit of 1.5 million out of the 12.6 million workforce or around 12%. This does not take any account of those mentally crippled as their numbers were not recorded, so the true hole in the workforce would have been bigger than the 12%.

The First Car in The Boat.

Through the 1920's the timber and forestry business that John was setting up did well, the family became quite well off.  Or should I say well off by the standards of a  1920's remote Highland Village.  Whatever they had some spare cash and became some of the very first people in the district to own a car.

I know this as Mm had memories of vomiting at just about every roadside in the area!  Also I know this as someone has found the old car registration records for Inverness Shire and Kindly shared that with me.  Here is a link to the original vehicle registration register for Inverness Shire.

bottom of page