Minister of Munitions

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"Ministry of Munitions" redirects here. For the ministry in Japan during WWII, see Ministry of Munitions (Japan).

The Minister of Munitions was a British government position created during the First World War to oversee and co-ordinate the production and distribution of munitions for the war effort. The position was created in response to the Shell Crisis of 1915 when there was much public criticism of the shortage of shells available.

Wartime role[edit]

David Lloyd George, Minister in 1915-1916

Lloyd George gained a heroic reputation with his energetic work as Minister of Munitions, 1915-16, setting the stage for his move up.[1]

When the Shell Crisis of 1915 dismayed public opinion with the news that the Army was running short of artillery shells, demands rose for a strong leader to take charge of munitions. The cabinet was reconstituted as the first coalition ministry in May 1915, and Lloyd George was made Minister of Munitions in a new department created to solve the munitions shortage.[2] In this position he won great applause, which formed the basis for his political ascent to Prime Minister in late 1916. All historians agree that he boosted national morale and focused attention on the urgent need for greater output, but many also say the increase in munitions output in 1915-16 was due largely to reforms already underway, though not yet effective, before he arrived. American historian R. J. Q. Adams provides details that show the Ministry indeed broke through the cumbersome bureaucracy of the War Department, resolved labour problems, rationalized the supply system and dramatically increased production. Within a year it became the largest buyer, seller, and employer in Britain.[1] The Ministry was staffed at the top levels by businessmen and loaned by their companies for the duration of the war. These men were able to coordinate the needs of big business with those of the state, and reach a compromise on price and profit that was acceptable to both sides.

Government agents bought essential supplies from abroad. Once bought, the Ministry would control their distribution in order to prevent speculative price rises and to enable normal marketing to continue. The whole of the Indian jute crop, for example, was bought and distributed in this way. Steel, wool, leather and flax came under similar controls. By 1918, the Ministry had a staff of 65,000 employing some 3 million workers in over 20,000 factories.

Most Ministers appointed were senior politicians, starting with David Lloyd George. The position was abolished in 1921 as part of a cutback of government and as a delayed result of the end of WWI in 1918.


  1. ^ a b R. J. Q. Adams, "Delivering the Goods: Reappaising the Ministry of Munitions: 1915-1916." Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies (1975) 7#3 pp: 232-244. a basic overview in JSTOR
  2. ^ Peter Fraser, "The British 'Shells Scandal' of 1915," Canadian Journal of History (1983) 18#1 pp 77–94

Further reading[edit]

  • Adams, R. J. Q. "Delivering the Goods: Reappaising the Ministry of Munitions: 1915-1916." Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies (1975) 7#3 pp: 232-244. a basic overview in JSTOR
  • Adams, Ralph James Q. Arms and the wizard: Lloyd George and the Ministry of Munitions, 1915-1916 (London: Cassell, 1978)
  • Beiriger, Eugene Edward. Churchill, Munitions and Mechanical Warfare (Peter Lang, 1997)
  • Burk, Kathleen. Britain, America and the Sinews of War, 1914-1918 (Allen & Unwin, 1985)
  • Gilbert, Bentley. David Lloyd George: Organizer of Victory 1912-1916 (1992), pp 209-50
  • Grigg, John. Lloyd George: From Peace to War 1912-1916 (1985) pp 223-56
  • Hill, L. Brooks. "David Lloyd George as minister of munitions: A study of his speaking tour of industrial centers." Southern Journal of Communication (1971) 36#4 pp: 312-323.
  • Hay, Denys. "IV. The Official History Of The Ministry Of Munitions." Economic History Review (1944) 14#2 pp: 185-190. in JSTOR
  • Marriner, Sehila. "The Ministry of Munitions 1915–1919 and government accounting procedures." Accounting and Business Research vol 10.sup1 (1980): 130-142.
  • Woollacott, Angela. On her their lives depend: munitions workers in the Great War (U of California Press, 1994)

Primary sources[edit]

  • Lloyd George, David. War Memoirs (2nd ed. 1934) vol 1 ch 9. 19

Ministers of Munitions, 1915–1921[edit]

Name Entered office Left office
David Lloyd George 25 May 1915 9 July 1916
Hon. Edwin Samuel Montagu 9 July 1916 10 December 1916
Christopher Addison 10 December 1916 17 July 1917
Winston Churchill 17 July 1917 10 January 1919
The Lord Inverforth 10 January 1919 21 March 1921

Parliamentary Secretaries to the Ministry of Munitions, 1916–1919[edit]

Name Entered office Left office
Sir Laming Worthington-Evans, Bt 14 December 1916 30 January 1918
F. G. Kellaway 14 December 1916 1 April 1920
J. E. B. Seely 10 July 1918 10 January 1919
John Baird 10 January 1919 29 April 1919

Parliamentary and Financial Secretaries to the Ministry of Munitions, 1918–1921[edit]

Name Entered office Left office
Sir Laming Worthington-Evans, Bt 30 January 1918 18 July 1918
James Hope 27 January 1919 31 March 1921