How Were Propaganda Posters Used in World War 1?

Published: 3 November 2023

By Judi Brown
via the Owlcation web site

Wanted Posters WWI

Lord Kitchener Wants You . . . and Uncle Sam Wants You, Too! (Left) The most famous and enduring UK recruitment poster image from WWI, designed by Alfred Leete. (Right) Painting by James Montgomery Flagg for US Government 1916/17.

The Growth of Propaganda

Propaganda was being used long before the outbreak of World War One, but the use of posters, rather than handbills, was pioneered during the war. Almost from the outset, the British government, through the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, set about producing posters to swell the ranks of Britain’s small professional army with volunteers.

The first posters relied simply on text to get their message across; as the war progressed, the posters became increasingly sophisticated, with artists using striking images to convey pro-war messages. Although recruitment was the initial focus for posters, they were also employed to:

  • promote patriotism,
  • justify the war,
  • raise money,
  • procure resources, and
  • promote accepted standards of behaviour.

Often, these themes crossed over, for instance, with patriotic images being woven into efforts to recruit men and raise money.

J M Flagg’s Propaganda Posters

James Montgomery Flagg, who designed the Uncle Sam poster above, was one of America’s most celebrated propaganda poster artists.

The Recruitment Drive

When the British entered the war on 4 August 1914 they had only a small professional army by European standards. Including its reserve, Special Reserve, Territorial Force and various militias, the British could muster a total force on mobilisation of just over 733,000. By contrast, Germany’s standing army was about the same size and they could count on this rising to 3.8 million on mobilisation. Clearly, Britain needed more men.

Although it was envisaged that the war would be over quickly, the British set about urging volunteers to join up. Between August and October 1914 five New Armies were sanctioned, requiring vast numbers of men. The Parliamentary Recruitment Committee swung into action, commissioning posters to complement the mass recruitment parades, newspaper advertisements and pamphlets.

Even after conscription was introduced in Britain in 1916 there was still a place for propaganda posters in raising both money and morale.

Read the entire article on the Owlcation web site.
External Web Site Notice: This page contains information directly presented from an external source. The terms and conditions of this page may not be the same as those of this website. Click here to read the full disclaimer notice for external web sites. Thank you.


Share this article

Related posts