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Propaganda Was an Essential Weapon In the War Against Germany Essay

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Introduction

During the First World War there were many aspects which effected the result of the war. Apart from the obvious confrontational conflict which took place, these took the form of fighting on the fronts war at sea and conflicts in the air. However there was also a great weapon which was utilised during the First World War by the British Empire. Propaganda was generally used in Britain to influence someone’s decision about particular issues related to the war. This seemingly subtle way of influencing people’s opinions was actually quite an effective way of influencing people’s general views.

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The aims of propaganda are therefore:

* influence people what they think, how they think and why the think in this fashion

* to maintain the support of the people

* to recruit volunteer soldiers

* to justify subscription to the armed forces after 1916 when subscription to the armed forces was made mandatory

* to convince people that the British will win

* to convince people that it is right and necessary to fight by generating ideas that the enemy is supremely evil and that getting rid of radicating this enemy is worth the cost of lives in war.

* to support people in times of suffering and hardship

* to instil a sense of national pride in the country, the men who were going to fight, the monarchy and the government.

* Propaganda contained information on crucial things such as food shortages and to cope in these situations with only the basics amenities needed to survive and how to generate your own amenities.

Formats of propaganda

Posters

These were very important pieces of propaganda as they had the most people looking at them. This was because posters could be easily seen from great distances, therefore a wider range of people could view the posters from further away. This actual was a very effective form of propaganda as single ‘buzz’ words could be placed on the poster and people would instantaneously know what the poster was trying to say to them. For example the poster to which I will refer to as ‘Go’, as it portrays a father type figure embracing a son like figure by the shoulders and gesturing to the horizon. The caption then reads ‘It’s your duty lad, Join to-day’.

The text is in large writing and would be easily seen from a great distance away if placed on a billboard. The emphasis on this piece of propaganda is on the word ‘Go’, it is much larger than the rest of the text and during this time in the 1st World War, people did not have to read the rest of the poster to understand what was being said. Thus because of many British peoples deep seeded roots about patriotism and the fact that it was their duty to defend their country many people actively paid attention to these posters and the influenced them highly.

Leaflets

These were usually posted through people’s doors or handed to them in the street. Leaflets provided people with propaganda in a minimised form, which could be more personal and targeted to influence people’s views over certain topics. Detailed in formation could be placed on the leaflet which could be read on posters from far distances.

These might be leaflets about food shortages, how it would effect the people and what they could do about it. Fundamentally this type of propaganda was meant to be read, minor details could be put on the leaflets, information which went into more depth about basic topics. Leaflets were also pinned in shop windows which allowed people to read the information on them as they looked into the window. Even discarded leaflets were looked at by passers-by that looked at the information, this type of propaganda was, even though it may not seem so read and acknowledged by many people.

Films

These programs on the idea of propaganda were shown in cinemas usually as the movie or as a preview to a movie. They were usually targeted to produced support for one type of propaganda in particular, whether it was recruitment or war bonds. Films were, although not cheap to make, very influential means of putting forth ideals of propaganda. The visuals of real people gave the watchers a sense of realism and that what they were watching was also something that they could be part of and have some kind of control over, this added to the morale of the British people.

Using films it is easy to portray any image which is needed, hence better control can be achieved over what is being viewed and how the audience is accepting the ideas. The British government under the Defence Of the Realm Act could restrict the viewing of films which would be detrimental to the war effort. However if the British government could restrict what was viewed then they could promote what was viewed. Therefore movies promoting support for the war were the only type of films which were legally aloud to broadcast or shown in respect to the war.

The film about the Battle of the Somme showed a staged battle where the amount of casualties sustained by the British was seemingly kept low, when in the actual battle the casualties where high on both sides, the British and French, and the Germans. The high casualties in this battle was in part due to the efforts of the tank. This was the first battle in which the notorious tank was used.

Films were very popular as they were very patriotic, this went well with the British home-grown belief in patriotism. They often showed highly patriotic films which made the British public proud of their country and gave them an elated morale which in part justified their belief that the war was a good thing to be a part of.

Newspapers

Newspapers were the most widely read, source of propaganda in World War 1 Britain. They gave information on what was happening on the battlefields and fronts of Europe. Information was not readily available, thus sources of information about the war were scarcely available, newspapers were the choice which most people made to receive their news in the morning. Posters were also stuck in newspapers to produce propaganda to influence people’s views. Newspapers were truly the national source of information available. In the news were articles talking about the latest war event or conquest, however the facts which regarded events which had not particularly gone Britains way were not at all mentioned.

The newspapers were full of stories about how great the war was going and how Britain was doing so well. When in actual fact Britain was experiencing sever amounts of casualties like in the Battle of the Somme, Britain experienced large amounts of casualties. The following is a quote from The Mirror regarding the battle of the Somme ‘Our losses are few……, on the other hand the Germans are many.’, this is a severely biased view if not blatant deception. The British and French forces lost colossal amounts of men at this battle.

However due to the D.O.R.A this type of information should not be viewed by the British public and therefore Britain were always made to be in control of the whole war. Newspapers were effective formats for propaganda as they were nationally available and many details could be put in the newspaper about propaganda as a large amount of people would be reading the information. The amount of information which was true on the war in newspapers which was unbiased was extremely rare and limited, this was due to people such as; Mr Beaverbrook, the Minister of Information, he decided what was allowed to be known about the war to the public and what was not. He also owned a major newspaper, hence he had great control and great influence over this format of propaganda, this man restricted the editors of the newspapers to what they could and could not print.

D.O.R.A

The Defence Of the Realm Act. This act passed in 1914 gave the British government wide-ranging abilities to control many aspects of people’s daily lives. Land and buildings were allowed to be seized as well as industries if they were important the war effort. The defence of the realm act also restricted what the public knew about the war. It did this by censoring all of the media which was available to the public. The government also censored what was told to the British media about the war, this included censoring foreign press and foreign information. The government immediately took control of important industries to the war such as the coal industry, it did this so that the supplies from the industries could be used to support the war effort instead to private profit being given to the owners.

The defence act was crucial in the way propaganda influenced people as this Act, restricted the types of propaganda available and provided the fuel for the propaganda fire. D.O.R.A was responsible for the over-exaggerated press about the tanks. If D.O.R.A had not restricted the information which was to be shared with the general public the support for the tank in the form of war bonds and recruitment would lower significantly and the general support for the war effort would also lower as morale would be lost. Hence as a part of propaganda the Defence Of the Realm Act was very important as this act secured how the war effort mainly on the home front would be marketed and justified. The British also cut the German transatlantic cables so that they could not communicate with any British media so the truth of the war would be kept a secret.

The Tank

This combat vehicle was used in the great as the British’s statement of power and advanced technology. Under the 1914 Defence Of the Realm Act, the British press was given the information that the tank was the Allies new secret weapon which was a main contributing factor on the home front to the British successes. In actual fact the tank was not such a successful weapon it was slow and sluggish and often got caught in mud as battles ensued making the tank an ineffective weapon in these situations. However the tank did have its positives it was a very strong vehicle which could withstand heavy fire and arsenal. Hence the tank was very good at attacking and taking the offensive however when it came to defending its acquired position and maintaining a strong barrier of defence the tank was not very good at this, it was also at fault when it came to strategic retreats.

In the papers the British media projected the take as an influential weapon in the war on the home front however it was not as effective as the public thought it was. The media received over-exaggerated details of the tank’s performance as the British government wanted to keep up the morale of the public so that they would not lose faith and consequently lose their confidence in the war effort. An example of this is the battle in Cambrai in Northern France in 1917 where the British opened an attack with a raid of around 400 tanks, the first in military history of this scale. The British drove an 8 kilometre salient in the German lines however lost most of this newly acquired land due to the tank not being able to hold it’s position. The British press made this out to be a British victory, when it was actually a draw due to the British not being able to use the tanks to hold their position.

The British wanted to raise morale and promote the influence of the tank by producing films such as the Dick Dolan film which was used to promote finances in the form of bonds for the British tank. The British government were actually playing the proverbial double-edged sword by not only raising morale, confidence and support for the war effort and money for the tank and the war effort on the home front, they were also giving the British public a belief, a belief that made them feel as if they were apart of the war and they influenced the war a lot.

Objectives of propaganda

Recruitment of men

One of the primary objectives of propaganda was to recruit men to fight in the war on the home front mainly; this type of propaganda was promoted mostly during 1914-1916 before conscription was introduced in January 1916. Recruitment according to he book British Propaganda during the First World War by Sanders M and Taylor P. Recruitment was the dominant theme of domestic propaganda. This was because of the enormous casualties on the western front due to the conditions upon which war was waged of that time.

During this main phase of recruitment propaganda in the first world war the PRC, Parliamentary Recruitment Committee was the most important recruitment committee. Recruitment was the main contributing factor to the enlistment of so any soldiers during the war. I believe recruitment was important as this attracted a lot of men to war when participation in the war was not mandatory. Therefore recruitment committees such as the PRC had to produce recruitment propaganda which they thought would most likely appeal to the public’s eligible soldiers as without these men the defence of the western front would not have been possible.

Hence the recruitment committees used propaganda like the memorable ‘GO!……. it’s your duty lad’, this poster depicts a mother type figure telling and gesturing to a man, which is most probably supposed to be a son like character to go and fight in the war. This poster was not only used to recruit men to join in the war effort but to tell the female members of that man’s family that this is how they should behave. They should tell their respective husbands, fathers, sons, uncles or brothers that they should go to war to defend the country.

This opinion is simply justified in the poster with the words ‘It’s you duty lad’, this not only gives the person who has already decided to join the war a reason to go to war, but it also puts a morale obligation on the men who are not enlisting to go to war that they should. At the bottom of the advert is the words ‘ Join to-day’, this I believe is a final prompt to join the army. The text is obviously just as important as the picture as the mother type figure seems to be gesturing towards the words. Also the words are in an uppercase font so that if a person is far away they may not be able to see the illustration but they will see the wording.

Another poster which promotes enlisting in the army but is apparent from a different approach is the ‘Daddy what did YOU do in the Great War.’ This depicts a girl child sitting on the lap of her father sometime in the future after the great war and a boy child sitting at his feet playing with some toy army vehicles. The girl is reading a book when she asks the question indicting she is reading some sort of history book. The father is obviously contemplating the question and has a worried look on his face.

This image is meant to depict the child getting ready for her father’s response about he was in the war fighting for what he believed, while the father ponders how he is going to tell his proud daughter that he was a coward and did not enter the war. This plays on the conscience of the observer who will put himself in that situation. Of course this person does not want to have to play this scenario so they enlist to show they are not cowardly. This poster basically says join the army and defend your family and country and be a hero, or do not join and live your life as a coward. The advert obviously puts forward the statement that the war will not damage the sociality of Britain much as the people in the advert seem to be well off and happy.

Eventually as the expectations of a short war diminished so did the amount of volunteers who were signing up to join in the war. This made the PRC obligated to produce a sustained campaign so that those who could not fight could still help in the war effort and propaganda started to be directed towards all people. Open propaganda posters were starting to be produced such as some forms of the ‘Your country needs you’ posters. These appealed to everybody as they simply said, ‘Your country needs you’, which allowed anybody to look at these posters and decide that they can do something which will in some way aid the war effort.

Women and Food Rationing

As well as men there was propaganda for women, some of this propaganda was used to promote the start up of the women working in fields. This was to grow crops and develop farming methods so that people could eat as there were restrictions on the amount of food which entered the country due to boats being sank on their way to bring food supplies back to the country. The women’s effort in growing crops saved the British economy money and men by farming for themselves so more money and men could be devoted to the war on the western front.

Food rationing propaganda campaigns were mainly aimed at women, as they were the ones at home and they were the only option, the men could not do it as they were supposed to fighting in the war. The children could not do it, as it was hard work and a huge responsibility. Also the older generation could not do this as the might be quick enough or strong enough to do the job, this left only the women. This promotion aimed at people to grow their own food saved ships, money and men. The women who took part got out of it a sense of responsibility and pride.

As well as propaganda actively advising the women to do productive things to aid in the war effort women were also wanted to tell their respective male members of their home who were eligible to fight, that they should go and join in the war. The reason why the person who persuades the man to go to war is depicted as a woman in many pictures is because women are the natural companions of men, husband-wife, and brother-sister.

An example of this is the poster ‘Women of Britain say-Go!’ This depicts a women, of a motherly look being embraced by her daughter and young child while they watch their husband and father respectively go to war. This I believe is trying to show that the women who are supposed to be saying this are supposed to try to have courage and say this to their husbands, this is put forward and justified that this is the woman’s obligation to do so. Even though this advert is primarily aimed at women it’s main incentive is the recruitment of men so the importance of recruitment is still an underlying feature and so is the influence of women.

Skilled Workers

In 1915 the first major problems of the war arose for the government, as the war drew to a stalemate on the western front, it was realised that the planning made for munitions needed during this predicted ‘short war’ would not be sufficient to last much longer. Most worryingly to the government was there were not enough bullets, shells and armaments; this meant that the forces on the western front would be powerless to stop the German’s onslaught. New recruits and soldiers had to train with wooden sticks instead of real rifles due to this shortage.

There started to be reports that soldiers had started to be limited to the amount of rounds they were allowed to use against the enemy. The name the ‘Munitions Crisis’ came about because this information was leaked to the press who found out and wrote about it in their paper, the Daily Mail had the highest circulation at that time. To prevent this the government s parties joined together to support the munitions crisis. Lloyd George was made the Minister of munitions.

The skilled workforces were asked to remain in the industries that needed them and not the industry which paid them the most. The government wanted these people to stay in these work forces to help in the manufacture of munitions for the war so that it might carry on and not grind to a stand still. The propaganda for skilled workforces played on the sympathetic and dutiful side of the skilled workers it made them feel like they were turning their back on the country in its time of need. Due to the then patriotic nature of the people in those days this would have justified their minds over whether they should go where they want or go where they are needed.

Hostility towards the enemy

To justify the event of going to war against another country the British government used propaganda to put forth a bad image of its enemy; in almost every scenario of propaganda this was apparent and was, in every scenario, at least bias against the enemy. This propaganda was used to settle the uneasiness of the British people about war and that sometimes sacrifices have to be made to win against evil, the enemy. This type of propaganda totally justifies every aspect of war. In the propaganda leaflet ‘Red Cross or Iron Cross’, a symbol of intense cruelty is used to generate hostility towards the enemy. This picture depicts the supposed cruelty of the German people. It depicts and explains in the poster that a wounded-emphasis on this word meaning unable to defend himself, soldier lies on the floor begging for water.

The nurse pours it only the floor before his very eyes while the Kaiser looks on and approves with a smile. The nurse and the Kaiser symbolise the two ends of the German people. The dictator and the nurse, the picture shows that is the two extremes of the German people are cruel then everyone in between is cruel as well. This shows that the one person who is not supposed to be biased and is generally supposed to help you is just as cruel as the Kaiser himself. She is obviously not being forced to do this and by the expression on her face she enjoys it. I believe that this form of propaganda promotes hatred towards the German people and makes people feel like they must do something to stop this ‘supposed’ evil from happening it also justifies why they are fighting in the first place.

The promotion of morale

Propaganda was not usually specifically used to target the promotion of morale it is just a by-product. However morale is just as important as by raising morale, interest and support for the war on the western front is increased. Morale was mainly promoted in newspaper articles where reports from the war had been written under the censorship of D.O.R.A, they usually contained biased opinions on actual events so as not to dishearten the British with any bad news. Bad news was seen as unnecessary by D.O.R.A as bad news was only detrimental to the public and that is not what they wanted they wanted full support and confidence in the war effort.

When morale is high people believe in what they are doing so where war is concerned if morale is high then people believe that they are doing the right thing and that they should continue. The promotion of morale was not only advantageous to the war effort it also helped financially where it came to bonds. People, as in stocks and shares, bought into bonds they had confidence in. Tank bonds were quite popular, as the British media had been promoting the image of the tank through reports they had received, even though in actual fact the tank was not a very effective weapon at the time. This was the same with war bonds, morale was high because of reports of how well the war was going when in actual fact it was not going as well as everybody thought it was, yet there was quite a high demand for war bonds.

The importance of Propaganda in the Great War

John Buchan said in an extract from ‘The Pity of War’ by Niall Ferguson, ”So far as Britain is concerned, the war could not have been fought for one month without its newspapers.” In part I agree with this point as propaganda was used through the news to influence peoples views. The views about the progress in the war were all constant and uniform with only a difference in the style of the description. This is due to D.O.R.A censoring what is to be seen by the general public.

This constant promotion of the war with a constant supply of good news followed by great news morale was raised and therefore propaganda had served its purpose. The statement I have just written can be supported by Lord Beaverbrook’s statement,”(The newsreels were)…the decisive factor in maintaining the morale of the people during those black days of the early summer of 1918.” By the ‘black days’ he is referring to when the Russians surrendered, the Ludendorff offensive was put into action, Britain were retreating and the Naval restrictions and food shortages. Through all of this propaganda in the media kept the morale high throughout Britain.

Propaganda during the war helped in promoting money for war bonds to keep the war going during such troubled times as when trading with other countries was restricted and the munitions crisis. Propaganda through biased promotions of how successful the defence of the home front was and how successful the tank was helped to get people interested in buying war bonds and tank bonds.

So the money invested in the war was increased so better training and weaponry could be used during the war which would and did increase the chances of success. ”Good propaganda saved a year of the war, and this meant the saving of thousands of millions of money and at least a million lives”, Lord Northcliffe. Due to propaganda the war was probably cut by a significant time period which saved money and lives. Propaganda used in the munition crisis saved the British from potentially losing the western front due to lack of armaments and ammunition.

The civilians were the most important people in the latter war period as with conscription you had to join the war but with civilians keeping their morale up was one of the most important things during the war civilians lives and homes were destroyed, the civilians were the ones being starved. The government had to keep the support of the people during a war, which is now effecting them.

Propaganda increased the amount of people involved in the war including women who helped by working on fields to grow crops to eat so that lives would be saved in that food would not have to be imported in from other countries. This would have boosted the morale of the women and saved money and lives by the production of home-grown crops.

Of course propaganda was very influential and important from 1914-January 1916, when enlistment was not mandatory propaganda was used to recruit men to fight in the war, without these meant the war could not even have begun to be a war. There would have been people volunteering for the army anyway but propaganda increased this volunteer ratio which meant more men were there to fight for their country. With the high casualties of the Great War recruitment was essential. Propaganda must have been influential as a Nazi propagandist said ‘Germany lost because of propaganda’. During World War II the nazi’s used propaganda highly to their advantage to take power in Germany.

However propaganda did have its limitations, people did not only depend on propaganda to win the war. The men battling against the enemy were not even effected by propaganda, as there was no point, it would be impossible to influence someone about a situation which there experiencing first hand.

If propaganda was important then why was it not used on one of the most important factors, the men who were fighting. In time when the war was going on people were raised with a high sense of patriotism to their country so it is possible to say that these people may have volunteered to fight in the war no matter if they were prompted to or not. The honour in defending your family and country against the enemy was something everyone was raised to believe in, in those days.

George Weill commented, ‘each of the warring nation’s persuaded itself that its government had neglected propaganda, whereas the enemy………had been most effective’, in these other states propaganda was free to flow throughout the country and most likely it did. Therefore this argument that a country lost the war due to propaganda seems like a front. I believe this front is an excuse to take the blame off themselves by saying that we lost the war due to propaganda and not because of our ability to fight in wars. As I believe that these countries felt it would be more appropriate and less humiliating to blame something which sounds insignificant like propaganda, rather than blaming their own abilities which were considered significant aspects in defending their country.

I believe that propaganda was important in the Great War but only to a certain extent, it was very good for the preparation of war but did nothing to influence the actual battles themselves. Propaganda did not help a soldier to fight better; it may have given him an incentive but did not get him to fight better. Propaganda was mainly used to influence the people in Britain, but as soon as the required task was achieved the propaganda ceased.

For example once a man had enlisted as a soldier propaganda became ineffective. It was very good for raising funds, morale and hostility all the things needed to battle in the war but the eventual outcome I think was down to the people who were effected by propaganda least, the soldiers. I can put my thoughts into this analogy, propaganda is the fuel which is placed upon the wood to help a fire burn the soldiers are the fire. Without the fuel the fire burns but not as brightly or with as much vigour, however without the fire the fuel is useless.

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