The Great War and London

The Poster Art that recruited for war

Poster showing a column of soldiers marching into the distance, while being   joined in the foreground by a variety of men in civilian attire.

Recruiting poster for the Great War printed by David Allen & Sons Ltd., Harrow, & published by the London Parliamentary Recruiting Committee in 1915.

London Poster Art played a major part in the largest voluntary recruitment for war in British history between 1914 and 1916.

The voluntary enlistment campaign was the brain-child of Lord Kitchener- a veteran hero of the colonial wars fought in the Sudan and South Africa.

The posters were usually commissioned by the London Parliamentary Recruiting Committee- an example of the way Great Britain blended background state direction with ‘voluntary’ initiatives from the private sector in the propaganda war.

The PRC was constituted 31st August 1914 and coordinated for the War Office a national network of local party political organisations backing the war with patriotic and imperial zeal.

Hundreds of original posters that used the leading graphical and fine artists of the time have been archived by the US Library of Congress and British Imperial War Museum.

Kitchener was one of the first military and political figures to realize that the First World War was likely to last several years and there was a need to build new armies.

Poster commissioned by London : Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, 1915.

Join the brave throng that goes marching along by Gerald Wood ; printed by Beck & Inchbold, Ltd., Leeds and London. Library of Congress

The poster art used advertising slogans and marketing devices to appeal to the emotions and pride of men in London and elsewhere.

Publishined in London : Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, 1915.

Lads, you’re wanted: go and help / printed by David Allen & Sons Ld., Harrow, Middlesex. Library of Congress.

There were even subtle and explicit messages to people in the legal profession and participants in the popular middle class sport of rugby football union.

Published: London : Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, [1915]

Take up the sword of justice. Join now / printed by David Allen & Sons Ld., Harrow, Middlesex. Library of Congress.

The posters were sometimes also journalistic in their messages such as this one for New Year’s Eve 1915.

London : Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, 1915.

“A happy new year to our gallant soldiers!” You can make it certain if you join now / designed and printed by Johnson, Riddle & Co., Ltd., London, S.E. Library of Congress.

478,893 men joined the army between 4 August and 12 September 1914.

The propaganda  campaign of persuasion succeeded in the voluntary recruitment of 2,466,719 into the British army between August 1914 and December 1915.

London : Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, 1915.

Each recruit brings peace nearer / printed by Andrew Reid & Co., Ltd., 50 Grey Street, Newcastle-on-Tyne. Library of Congress.

But that was to prove insufficient manpower for the modernist, industrial, long term and costly genre of total war.

The first Military Service Act brought in conscription for single men of military age from the end of January 1916 which was extended to  married men by further legislation in May of that year.

This gallery presents posters that would have been familiar on the eye to anyone travelling about London in First World War Britain. All these images are from the Library of Congress collection.

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A long long way to Tipperary released as a 78 rpm phonograph record by Regal in October 1914. This version of the song by Judge and Williams was performed with vocal chorus by the King’s Military Band. ‘It a Long. Long Way to Tipperary’. Regal G 6802/2931. Made in England. 1914.

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