Tuesday, April 4, 2017


During the conflict, and especially following the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, the German attack on Belgium, and the execution of British nurse Edith Cavell, a sense of patriotism, engagement, and duty swept through the Allied nations, prompting many people to enlist in the military. Those who did not, or those who resisted the draft, were regarded as 'slackers' for failing to contribute to the war effort via national pride and service. With such pressure coming from propaganda, peers, and moral values, one must have felt obliged to cast off neutrality and fight for their country.


Elsworth Young. "Remember Belgium" (United States). Temple University Libraries. Accessed March 09, 2017. http://gamma.library.temple.edu/exhibits/exhibits/show/george-tyler-wwi-poster-exhibi/page-42.


"Recruitment Posters - Remember the ‘Lusitania’." Canada and the First World War. Accessed March 09, 2017. http://www.warmuseum.ca/firstworldwar/objects-and-photos/propaganda/recruitment-posters/remember-the-lusitania/.

"Anti-German Materials - Remember Edith Cavell." Canada and the First World War. Accessed March 09, 2017. http://www.warmuseum.ca/firstworldwar/objects-and-photos/propaganda/anti-german-materials/remember-edith-cavell/.

Propaganda like the examples above were made to evoke strong feelings of nationalism, duty, and vengeance; they used strong language to draw from viewers' feelings towards injustice, ethics, and even traditional gender roles. Their goal was two-fold: exact vengeance and justice on the perpetrators of the acts portrayed, and stop the acts from happening again. In the 1918 American 'Remember Belgium' poster, a German soldier drags a young woman along as flames consume the city in the background; this image strongly implies that moral trepidation has occurred and will continue to occur if the viewer does not take action. Although this poster was made to promote the sale of war bonds, the message is clearly biased against the enemy (namely, the Germans) and probably incited enlistment.

The 'Remember the Lusitania' poster has no imagery, but instead features a graphic, detailed description of the sinking of the Lusitania by German forces. This recruitment poster about the Lusitania focuses on avenging "this devil's work" and charges the German government with "murder." It cites enlistment as one's "duty" to their country and uses strong, forceful, official-sounding language to encourage viewers to exact vengeance on the German government for their crimes against the Lusitania and its passengers.

The third poster encourages viewers to remember the murder of Edith Cavell, a British nurse whom the Germans executed in 1915. She had been known to help soldiers from either side of the conflict, and she aided 200 Allied soldiers across enemy lines out of Belgium, which was occupied by the German forces. For her efforts, she was caught and tried by a German military court for assisting the enemy, and executed by firing squad. The British government used her death as a rallying cry for enlistment and service in order to avenge her.

These three instances - the German attack on Belgium, the sinking of the Lusitania, and the execution of Edith Cavell - are all mentioned in the poem "Neutrality" by Private John Aston of the 3rd Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians).

Oct 1st 1916
France
Neutrality
It is not that our Father’s English Blood,
Burns in, us now that England Bleed, it’s not
Friendship for France nor pity for the lot,
Of Belgium buried in, invasions flood,
That scorns Neutrality but there’s a flame.
Hot in the Hearts of Men whose spirits live.
Blaying[?] for the faith and Freedom Who can give
His soul the lie and wear a neutral’s name.
With worlds at stake? Be blind and dumb,
To murder mild-eyed and to Rapine numb, -
A senseless nothing! Who dares say we must
Be neutral? To the Lusitania’s Shame.
Neutral? To Edith Cavell’s martyr Fame?
Neutral - with Belgium broken in the Dust!

With best wishes to the Sister’s[sic] of Ward A9
22nd General Hospital
BEF
France
10431 Pte John Aston
3rd Leinster Regt

Private Aston obviously felt strongly about the concept of duty and national service, and implies that neutrality is like the destruction of "faith and Freedom" by the enemy. Private Aston sees neutrality as aid to the enemy and wrong in a moral sense; he believed the posters in that he felt the need to avenge Belgium, the Lusitania, and Edith Cavell. In other words, for Private Aston, the propaganda worked.

Sources
"Anti-German Materials - Remember Edith Cavell." Canada and the First World War. Accessed March 09, 2017. http://www.warmuseum.ca/firstworldwar/objects-and-photos/propaganda/anti-german-materials/remember-edith-cavell/.
"Edith Cavell 1865-1915." Edith Cavell 1865-1915. Accessed March 09, 2017. https://edithcavell.org.uk/.
Lantz, Birdie Genevieve. Record Book Number 4, June-August 1918. Diary. Camiers, France. Western Oregon University Archives. Sister Lantz Record Books.
"Recruitment Posters - Remember the ‘Lusitania’." Canada and the First World War. Accessed March 09, 2017. http://www.warmuseum.ca/firstworldwar/objects-and-photos/propaganda/recruitment-posters/remember-the-lusitania/.
Young, Elsworth. "Digital Exhibits: Remember Belgium." Temple University Libraries. Accessed March 09, 2017. http://gamma.library.temple.edu/exhibits/exhibits/show/george-tyler-wwi-poster-exhibi/page-42.

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