service and the number of wounds a man had received, it ensured that the longest-serving soldiers were generally demobilised first. The new system defused a dangerous political situation, although problems still occurred. Demobilised Commonwealth soldiers were often left waiting for long periods until transport could be found to ship them home. In March 1919, a mutiny at a Canadian camp in Rhyl was only suppressed after several men were killed.
On the whole, however, demobilisation was a success. In November 1918, the British Army had numbered almost 3.8 million men. A year later, it had been reduced to 900,000. And by 1922, the total was just over 230,000.
Over two million men in the British and Commonwealth armies were wounded during the war. Thousands suffered long-term disabilities caused by amputation, blindness, disfigurement and poison gas damage to heart and lungs. Others had mental health problems caused by the psychological traumas they had experienced. Improvements in artificial limbs, plastic surgery, facial reconstruction techniques and psychiatry brought some relief. But many were left to fend for themselves with little financial or social support from the state. War and three other organisations) and the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen’s Association (established in 1932) campaigned for better pensions and provided convalescent homes, sheltered workshops, hostels, food and clothing for ex-soldiers and their dependants. Such organisations, alongside regimental associations, offered many veterans a sense of belonging and a renewal of the comradeship of the trenches.
Despite the Lloyd George government’s promise of a ‘land fit for heroes’, many exsoldiers suffered during the 1921 economic slump. Unemployment increased and the ambitious programme of post-war reconstruction was cancelled. But, despite the widespread industrial and political unrest of the era, the majority of Army veterans were re-integrated successfully into the British economy. Unlike many of their German, Russian and Italian counterparts, most British ex-servicemen did not support extremist political parties or paramilitary organisations.
Comrades of the Great War membership enrolment card, 1919 A member of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps tends a temporary graveyard at Etaples, 1918.The British War Medal (above right) was awarded to all who had completed 28 days mobilised service during 1914-18; The Allied Victory Medal (above left) was issued to all who served in a theatre of war between August 5, 1914 and November 11, 1918