British World War I Posters: Inspiring Men to War

At the beginning of World War I, Great Britain had a small army and a tradition that "no man should be forced to fight for his country." The draft was a repugnant idea to most members of the Cabinet, but millions of men would be needed to wage the budding battle.

It was necessary to inspire young men to voluntarily enlist--and posters were called upon to do the job. The power of the British recruiting posters was such that in less than two months, 100,000 volunteers had signed up. By a month later, more than 700,000 new recruits had answered the call.

The Blair-Murrah exhibit of British World War I posters provides a unique glimpse at the way the British inspired their nation to support the war with their men and their resources.

Of particular interest are the so-called "atrocity posters," which portrayed the Germans as blood-thirsty and heartless, to appeal to the British sense of justice and fair play. Other posters, with grand pictures of charging cavalry and victorious soldiers, impressed young men with the glorious adventures that awaited them on the other side of the English Channel.