Quotations – Total war

These World War I quotations about total war have been compiled by Alpha History authors. They feature statements from contemporary figures, political leaders, military commanders, service personnel, anti-war campaigners and historians of World War I. We will update this page with new quotes from time to time. If you would like to suggest a quotation, please contact Alpha History.

“It is without doubt largely due to drink that we are unable to secure the output of war material needed to meet the requirements of the army. The King will set the example by giving up all alcoholic liquor himself, and issuing orders against its consumption in the royal household, so that no difference shall be made between the treatment of rich and poor.”
George V, British king, August 1914

“All through the war the great armament firms were supplied from the enemy countries. The French and the British sold war materials to the Germans through Switzerland, Holland and the Baltic neutrals, and the Germans supplied optical sights for the British Admiralty. The armament industry, which had helped stimulate the war, made millions out of it.”
C.J. Pennethorne Hughes, historian

“I think a curse should rest on me because I love this war. I know it’s smashing and shattering the lives of thousands every moment, and yet I can’t help it — I enjoy every second of it.”
Winston Churchill, 1916

“I didn’t get much peace, but I heard in Norway that Russia might well become a huge market for tractors soon.”
Henry Ford, after a failed ‘peace mission’ to Europe, 1915

“Unless the British public takes the matter into its own hands and insists upon the dismissal of inefficient bunglers among the politicians, and at the War Office, we shall lose the support of our Allies [and] the enthusiasm of the Dominions. We shall waste the magnificent efforts of our soldiers and sailors – and eventually we shall lose the war.”
The Daily Mail, July 1915

“Lord Kitchener has starved the army in France of high explosive shells. The admitted fact is that Lord Kitchener ordered the wrong kind of shell… He persisted in sending shrapnel, a useless weapon in trench warfare… The kind of shell our poor soldiers have had has caused the death of thousands of them.”
Lord Northcliffe, British press baron, 1915

“A moment in our struggle for existence has now been reached, when government by some 23 men who can never make up their minds has become a danger to the Empire. The burden of administration in war makes demands on the body and mind which cannot possibly be supported by idle septuagenarians like Mr Balfour and Lord Lansdowne, or by such a semi invalid as Lord Grey of Fallodon… The notorious characteristic of our ‘government’ of 23 is indecision. It just waits till the press and the Germans have done something which forces it to decide in a hurry – and too late.”
The Daily Mail, December 1916

“The Great War was as much a war of competing blockades, the surface and the submarine, as of competing armies. Behind these two blockades the economic systems of the two opposing groups of countries were engaged in a deadly struggle for existence, and at several periods of the war the pressure of starvation seemed likely to [resolve the war before] the entrenched armies or the immobilised navies.”
J. A. Salter, historian

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