- Age 9 to 11 (KS2)
- Age 11 to 14 (KS3)
Use these sources to discover more about First World War Recruitment Posters.
For ideas to help you use these sources, take a look at our Suggested Activities.
CURRICULUM LINKS AND LEARNING OBJECTIVES
- KS3/4 - Challenges for Britain, Europe and the wider world, 1901-present.
- GCSE - Warfare and British society, c1250-Present.
- To understand the historical context of recruitment posters during the First World War.
Britons. Join Your Country's Army!
This is perhaps the most famous poster from the First World War, and shows Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, appealing for people to join the British Army. It was first produced in 1914, but has taken on a more iconic status since the war, when it was not widely circulated outside of the London area. However, its striking visual appeal was picked up by other artists, including in the USA, where the image of Kitchener was replaced by Uncle Sam.
Women of Britain say 'Go!'
This poster clearly demonstrates the application of commercial advertising techniques to the recruitment campaign and is appealing to Britain’s female population to encourage more men to join the army, whilst depicting women and children as needing protection. However, The First World War substantially increased the numbers of women in paid work and the range of jobs that they undertook.
WOMEN URGENTLY WANTED FOR THE W.A.A.C.
The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) was established in December 1916. Women who joined the Corps carried out a large number of non-combatant tasks in France, freeing up more men for service in the front line. The first party of 14 women arrived on the Western Front on 31 March 1917. Eventually, 9,000 women served with the unit in France.
Are You in This?
This poster was designed by Robert Baden Powell who established the Scouting movement. It shows how different sections of society are contributing to the war effort, including a scout. On the side lines is a man shown with his hands in his pockets, and smoking a cigarette, who is not yet involved.
Step Into Your Place
This poster shows a united Britain, with all members of society going to war together. Everyone is shown carrying the tools of their trade or profession, with civilians gradually transforming into British infantrymen.
The idea that team sports were good preparation for war was common across Britain and its Empire. Team sports incorporated both team spirit and a sense of patriotism and this Australian poster plays on the country’s sporting pride and its growing sense of identity.
This Soldier is Defending India
This Indian recruitment poster was produced with a blank strip at the bottom, so that each region could add text in their own language. This made the poster very flexible, as it could be adapted to meet the needs of the area it was going to. However, recruitment posters were less common in India, where the recruitment campaign was conducted differently. India was still a largely rural society at this time and poster campaigns were more associated with urban areas.
? [The Question Mark]
This poster was designed for the last recruiting campaign carried out by the Government of Australia during the First World War. It shows an ape-like monster, wearing a German helmet, or pickelhaube, which was seen as a symbol of German militarism. The poster was part of a sophisticated campaign, and the graphic imagery is particularly forceful and very different to that used in British posters.
This striking poster imagines an Australia occupied and taken over by Germany. This was never a realistic fear for the people of Australia, but rather reflects the fear of a world dominated by Germany and the values it was perceived to have.
Irishmen Avenge the Lusitania
The passenger liner RMS Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat in May 1915. The ship may have been carrying military supplies, but over 1000 passengers lost their lives in the incident, which became one of the most controversial acts of the war. This poster uses the incident to try and encourage Irish men to enlist, and avenge the sinking of the ship.
On the morning of 16 December 1914, the North Sea ports of Hartlepool, West Hartlepool, Whitby and Scarborough were bombarded by the German First High Seas Fleet Scouting Group. 137 people lost their lives and 592 people were wounded. This poster uses the incident to try and encourage people to enlist, but the British public and newspapers were also outraged at the Royal Navy for not protecting the towns.
For the Glory of Ireland
This Irish recruiting poster uses the German invasion of Belgium as a recruiting tool. It is appealing specifically to the Catholic population of Ireland, which at this time was still part of the United Kingdom, to defend Belgium, which was also a Catholic country.
Who Can Beat this Plucky Four?
This poster from 1915 shows English, Scottish and Welsh troops crouched, poised and ready for war, whilst an Irish soldier stands behind them. The poster was used in Ireland, where much of the country was pursuing independence, to encourage men to enlist and join the war effort. In this instance the poster was particularly aimed at the Protestant population and those supporting unionism.
This poster was produced in September 1915 and was the last one to make use of an image in the recruitment campaign. By the time it was produced enlistment numbers had fallen and the introduction of conscription was inevitable. However, posters like this were still used to encourage people to enlist before they became conscripts.
The Military Service Act
This poster announces the military service act, which introduced conscription in 1916. It sets out the facts of this new piece of legislation and encourages men to enlist before the act came into force on March 2nd. With the introduction of the act, posters became more about providing information, than trying to be persuasive.
Your King and Country Need You!
This poster is appealing for people to enlist with the Quebec Rifles as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. It shows the four allies of Belgium, France, Russia and Britain and, despite the posters title, is encouraging people to join an international war effort and fight for universal values and causes.
Vote for Snowball and No Conscription
Conscription in Britain was first introduced in 1916, but remained unpopular throughout the war. This poster date from the 1918 general election and shows that people were still unhappy with being forced to join the armed forces.
[Richard Slocombe, Senior Curator of Art, IWM] Propaganda was very much in its formative stages of development; it was the concept of government's appealing to a mass audience. It was a completely new phenomenon. Certainly, at the beginning of the war, there was a - it was a bit amateurish, a bit piecemeal. And it was particularly say, in the early recruitment campaigns and things like that it, it wasn't entirely successful - it did rely on the inherent patriotism of the British public.
What they did in the end was get people who knew what they were talking about, and these were people like newspaper proprietors like Lord Northcliffe and Lord Beaverbrook. Who their papers like the Daily Mail, such like The Daily Express, were used to communicating with a mass audience basically. So, whereas the British propaganda effort, it's begun the war whereby employing civil servants, politicians. They eventually, the penny dropped, and they began to employ the people, the professionals shall we say - people who knew what they were talking about.
Amongst countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand and other countries in Empire. There was a real sort of belief in the empire, in Britain as a nation, as a society, a kind of figurehead. And they were, you know, they were motivated out of a sense of loyalty. The war was also being presented as a conflict to fight for basic freedoms and the threat of militarism and despotism that was, that was Germany basically. So, there was a sense, that there was a certain belief, ideals, hard-won freedoms that were at stake. Not just in Europe but across the world, this has felt that there was a real threat to internationally -to freedom and democracy and things like that. So, they joined up because of that - so there was, you know, there was a sense of loyalty to the crown and to the Empire. But also, there was this feeling that there were certain, you know, freedoms that were at stake.
Conscription was introduced at the end of 1915, the beginning of 1916. Basically, because the war had continued for much longer than anyone had anticipated. A lot of people had thought that this was going to be quite a short war. What was predicted by some of the leaders in Britain; chiefly Lord Kitchener who was it was charge of raising that a mass army; was that we needed to have a big army, a big standing army like France and like Germany. In order to contribute and to prevail in this war basically.
Britain was always considered as itself as essentially a naval power and for that reason it always kept a small, highly professional regular Army which was used - mainly to settle colonial disputes and things like that. So, it wasn't anything like the size it needed to be, in order to engage a major power like Germany. So, they initially - there was a call for voluntary enlistment, which was enthusiastically taken up by the British male population. But as the war wore on and horrendous sort of losses, that were being endured by Britain and the other countries, that flow of volunteers began to tail off basically. And conscription was introduced basically to maintain Britain's mass army. Basically, so it could effectively wage war against Germany and the central powers.
This poster just announces the military service act in 1916 which introduced conscription. I mean there's no visual appeal about this poster; there's no exciting images, there's no appeals to masculinity, there's no appeal to avenge sinking liners. There’s no appeals to avenge atrocities as committed by the Germans in Belgium. It's telling you about a new bit of legislation, a new law which says - everyone within a certain age bracket, will now be compelled to join the British war effort i.e., the Army. And it just basically sets out the facts of this legislation and when it comes into force: so, I've got Thursday March the 2nd 1916.
In Australia and places like Canada and things - they were very reluctant to introduce conscription. They didn't like the idea that they were compelled to fight. So, the countries that did introduce, that like Canada, that did introduce it very late on in the war - and some never did at all - but it seemed to go against, you know, a notion of freedom of choice. And so you know it was a very unpopular, and remained unpopular, right throughout the war. And particularly during elections and at the end of the war and things - the ending of conscription was considered a vote winner. Basically, that it was so unpopular it was considered as something that would win votes and would be popular amongst the population.
Find out more about First World War recruitment posters from Richard Slocombe, Imperial War Museums' Senior Curator of Art.