Friday, April 24, 2015

Propaganda Posters from The Great War

In wartime, even more than at other times, the government is keenly interested in what the citizens believe.

During the First World War the Hun believed that Germany was a nice place, and it was honorable and fitting to fight and die for the Kaiser.

Food was short everywhere.  In fact food was critical to all parties' war effort. Neither Britain nor Germany grew enough food to supply their people, even before war broke out, but imported much of what they needed. The Canadians warned their people to refrain from hoarding.

For some reason corn was not considered good for shipping overseas—perhaps the Europeans didn't know how to cook it—so the home folks were encouraged to eat corn in preference to the more desirable wheat.

Saving food and buying war bonds were the activities most encouraged on the home front.  Here's a First Nations tribesman boasting about his investment in the Patriotic Fund. It's a crappy piece of artwork. I can draw better Indians than that, myself.

In reality the First Nations people had little money to invest in war bonds, but many were keen to go to Europe and fight. Some became war heroes. And speaking of ethnics tussling with the Hun, here is a poster from France depicting a happy African rushing to the fray.

I guess they don't call it a World War for nothing. By the end of it everybody was involved.

The recruiting posters urging the Irish to fight for England's King seem really strange to me. Here I was thinking they would have been just as happy to see him defeated.

But this was not true of all the Irish. A goodly number of Irish men were fighting in the trenches on the side of the Allies. When Roger Casement, that rabid revolutionary, went to Germany to ask for troops and arms to fight for Irish independence, the Germans said they would give him arms but no troops. However, more than 2,000 Irish men were being held in Germany as prisoners of war. If they wanted to fight against the English, they would be allowed to go back to Ireland with Casement.

Only three of these men volunteered. Quite likely they understood that if the rebellion failed they would be hanged, as was Casement, in the event.

Trench warfare was a nasty, futile, and frustrating business. Few were the comforts, what with the mud, the barrages, and the dead piling up, but one thing could always be counted on to bring a spot of relief: tobacco.

Aaah, nothing like a good smoke. And so it goes. More news from the Western front in later posts.

© 2015 Kate Gallison


  1. From all the news I heard on the radio between last night and today --- it sounds like a lot of folks are gearing up for Number Trois.... can't even imagine what THAT propaganda might sound/look like!!! tjs

  2. Thanks for the posters, Kate. I'm interested in the way ideas and movements get sold to people. I'm sure you're seen the documentary," Rosie the Riveter". It's fascinating. First there's propaganda to get women to work outside the home. Then, when the war ends, there's the propaganda to convince them they should be satisfied with they should be happy being wives and mothers

  3. I missed "Rosie the Riveter." Will hunt it down. They can keep WW III, I'm not up for it.