NQ Scottish History

Domestic impact of war on society

With the benefit of hindsight, it has become popular to assume that people's reaction to the war at the time was one of shock and horror. It is true that people were determined that they should never again be required to fight another such war. However, during the war they showed a pride and an astonishing resilience in the face of the scale of the military losses. They greeted publicity stunts like ‘Julian the tank’ with enthusiasm and towns competed with each other to raise the most money for the war effort.

The war also changed greatly the lives of women. For the first time they had access to certain jobs and many women enjoyed their new social freedom. Women were willing and able to directly engage in political protest. Although many of the changes did not last, they had altered women’s expectations forever.

It is important also to remember that a small but significant number of people opposed the war totally. Women such as Agnes Dollan and Helen Crawfurd were leaders of the women’s peace movement. Absolute conscientious objectors could find themselves in the harsh detainment camp at Dyce.

Post-war, the impact on society and culture is more mixed. On the one hand, there is the commemoration of the war in the shape of the Scottish National War Memorial. It is possible to detect in this a distinctive (if not yet separate) pride in how Scotland remembered the war.

On the other hand, some returning from the war opted not to stay at all and sought better opportunities in the USA or Canada. Of those who did so, many were well skilled, turning their backs on the country they had fought for. The literature of the time reflects all of these emotions and responses and helped create a new sense of what it meant to be Scottish.