Sunday, 3 August 2014

Selling World War 1 The Poster War #WW1

The sporting stars chosen as poster boy and girl for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games  were , swimmer Michael Jamieson  or  400m hurdler Eilidh Child . Both won silver medals in their events.  ( Congratulations both)

The Independent’s Robin Scott-Elliot wrote 
“ It seems as if Jamieson and Child stare down at you from every billboard in this city”. 
Clearly the campaign’s visibility had been picked up by the journalist. Despite all the social components of the festival's Communications mix , conventional outside broadcast media still played a key role.

The purpose of the posters were focused at both sports fans and Glasgow citizens and perhaps  the Scottish nation to rally support of the home nation in this multi-national festival of sport.

A poster exhibit form the special World War One
 exhibition at Farnham Museum , Surrey.
Fashion being made to look
unpatriotic and frivolous
As our mind moves now towards the commemorations for the 100th  anniversary of the outbreak of the first World War  another 'poster boy' , arguably one of the first poster boys in a design by Alfred Leete will feature. 

 Lord Kitchener 
 with his iconic moustache , 
 Military Hat, 
 pointing finger 

 and slogan 

“ Your Country needs you” 

It will quite likely be reproduced in the various commemoration supplements and the TV programmes that will produced.

But it's an Urban Myth !:

Recent  research has found that no such poster was actually produced during the war and that the image was never used for official recruitment purposes. 

In fact, it only became popular and widely-used after the conflict ended.

*James Taylor, researched the history of recruitment posters, said the popular understanding of the design and the impact it had was almost entirely mistaken.

As part of his research, he studied the official records of the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, the body responsible for recruitment posters, in the National Archives at Kew.

Local Recruitment Poster for
 October 1915 for Farnham.
Exhibit at Farnham Museum Surrey
At the start of the War the government’s priority was recruitment.  

There were no established  agencies as such for propaganda so at Wellington House, in Buckingham Gate  a group was set up to work on the task.

What is interesting in retrospect is how the messages were differently presented to the genders at the start of the War.  

Conscription had not been introduced at that time so the messages had to be highly persuasive.

They often appealed to emotional motivators of national loyalty, sense of duty, joining the lads at the front of the British Expeditionary Force.

 It would not be for long  of course since

"it will all be over by Christmas

Poster from the exhibition
 at London's British Library
Of course the women had to be persuaded to let their boys go. 

They were told that they could manage and indeed were capable of taking on the role of  men’s work while their men folk  were away at the front.

With hindsight we now can see how this would sow the seeds of considerable social change in just a few decades. 

The impact of the poster as a means of communication in World War One was  probably greater than at any other time during history.

Poster from London's 
British Library exhibition

The ability of posters to 



 and persuade 

combined with vibrant design trends  produced many interesting visual works

As mechanised warfare and the use of poison gas brought about huge casualties, it was increasingly difficult to get men to enlist.

Appeal for help
from Exhibition at British Library

Posters were used to inspire ........

Poster from London, British Library Exhibition 

...........or shame men to enlist.

Posters were employed widely to garner support, urge action, and boost morale

The poster was also a major tool for widespread dissemination of information during World War One.

Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey, “ The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” August 1914

On Monday 4th August, everyone in the UK is invited to turn their lights out from 10pm -11pm leaving on a single light or candle to mark the moment the UK entered the first World War 100 years ago.

Lights Out

Even Piccadilly Circus lights in London are joining #LightsOut

Related Links and further reading 

*Your Country Needs You: The Secret History of the Propaganda Poster by James Taylor

Farnham Museum

Enduring War Grief Grit and Humour  British Library Exhibition

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