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18 September 2014
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Recruitment Posters from World War One

Imperial War Museum, Letterpresses

British Continental Tour poster
'British Continental Tour' ©
The war and sport connection made by John Singer Sargent is also made explicit in the recruitment posters shown here. Men of Millwall are being urged to join up in a team game and to represent their community. The Berlin tour poster describes killing as 'good hunting'.

Other posters used the metaphor to emphasise the trivial nature of a sporting contest, in comparison to the urgent needs of the war, making their appeal to the virtues of good sportsmanship, patriotism and the just nature of the cause.

These posters are interesting in that they give little reason for fighting other than fighting itself. The call for 1,000,000 more men openly indicates the scale of the risks involved.

'Men of Millwall' poster
'Men of Millwall' ©
Sargent's naive question, 'Do they fight on Sundays?', asked during his visit to the Western Front, shows how society had taken in the propaganda. It was as if he thought there was some sort of half-time, and that killing could be switched on and off quite easily.

As the soldiers discovered, however, the war they were involved in was an adrenaline-fuelled activity, and the reality was that soldiers could not make the switch so easily - stories of atrocities on both sides were commonplace.


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Published: 2005-03-03

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