Primary Documents - Defence of the Realm Act, 12 August 1914

British Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith With Britain's entry into the First World War on 4 August 1914 the British Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, requested that Parliament pass the Defence of the Realm Act.

Reproduced below are relevant excepts from the August 1914 Act passed by Parliament.  The terms of the Act enabled the government to seize property, apply censorship guidelines and control labour as deemed necessary for the duration of the war (although the act continued in existence beyond wartime).

In 1916 the then Minister of Labour, John Hodge, threatened to use the Act against strikers.

Be it enacted ... as follows:

(1) His Majesty in Council has power during the continuance of the present war to issue regulations for securing the public safety and the defence of the realm, and as to the powers and duties for that purpose of the Admiralty and Army Council and of the members of His Majesty's forces and other persons acting in his behalf; and may by such regulations authorise the trial by courts-martial, or in the case of minor offences by courts of summary jurisdiction, and punishment of persons committing offences against the regulations and in particular against any of the provisions of such regulations designed:

(a) to prevent persons communicating with the enemy or obtaining information for that purpose or any purpose calculated to jeopardise the success of the operations of any of His Majesty's forces or the forces of his allies or to assist the enemy; or

(b) to secure the safety of His Majesty's forces and ships and the safety of any means of communication and of railways, ports, and harbours; or

(c) to prevent the spread of false reports or reports likely to cause disaffection to His Majesty or to interfere with the success of His Majesty's forces by land or sea or to prejudice His Majesty's relations with foreign powers; or

(d) to secure the navigation of vessels in accordance with directions given by or under the authority of the Admiralty; or

(e) otherwise to prevent assistance being given to the enemy or the successful prosecution of the war being endangered.

(3) It shall be lawful for the Admiralty or Army Council:

(a) to require that there shall be placed at their disposal the whole or any part of the output of any factory or workshop in which arms, ammunition, or warlike stores and equipment, or any articles required for the production thereof, are manufactured;

(b) to take possession of, and use for the purpose of, His Majesty's naval or military service any such factory or workshop or any plant thereof;

'Case-Shot' was the name for a short-range artillery anti-personnel shell filled with pellets, chain-links, etc.

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Primary Docs