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WW1 Sources Question: War Recruitment Propaganda Essay

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The Sources Consist of Poster’s Saying/Showing:

* Source A: Go! It’s your duty lad

* Source B: Daddy, what did you do in the great war?

* Source C: The Kaiser, personified as a Gorilla, crawling over a city with a woman in his had.

* Source D:An American Recruitment Poster

* Source E: A Soldier’s Post-Card (Controlled)

* Source F:A Painting of soldiers chasing a ball across the battlefield

* Source G: A Poem about the Somme

* Source H: A First Hand Account of the Somme

* Sources H&J: Graphic,Uncensored Accounts of the Somme1)

I believe sources A and B were published before 1916 and Source C after 1916.

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Sources A and B both concentrate on convincing men to sign up to the armed forces and since conscription was not introduced until 1916 these posters must have been published before 1916. Source C is an American poster; America did not join until 1917, therefore Source C must have been published after 1916.2)The posters are all similar in on fundamental way, they all concentrate on convincing young men to sign up for the armed forces. Source A shows an old man and old lady saying “GO! IT’S YOUR DUTY LAD”. The source uses the belief of the young men that it was their duty to sign up to serve their parents. Source B shows a middle-aged man sitting in his living room with his daughter on his knee and his young son playing with his toy soldiers.

The caption says “Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?” this source utilises the guilt and humiliation of a father not being able to tell his children what he did in the war. Source C is a more advanced piece of propaganda. It shows an intimidating gorilla (with a backdrop of a destroyed city) with the Kaiser’s hat running away with a beautiful maiden (representing the innocent and good allies). Source C convinces men to sign up by persuading them that if they do not fight Germany will “rape” their beautiful country. Sources A, B and C are similar because they all use emotions to achieve their goal. They are all concerned with convincing men to sign up to the army and they use the patriotism of the people. They all differ because they use different emotions and different types of pictures to convey their message to the people.3)

Sources A and B both concentrate on convincing men to sign up to the armed forces. Since Source D shows young men filling the streets to collect their army pay, I can assume sources A and B were successful. Source A shows an old lady and an old gentleman standing side by side with the caption “Go! It’s your duty lad.” Source B shows a middle-aged man sitting on his armchair with his daughter on his knee and his son on the floor playing with his little soldiers. The caption says “Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?” Both sources A and B concentrate on using the guilt of the men who have not signed up to fight to force the men into fighting for their nation.Since half a million men signed up in the first four weeks of the war and conscription was not introduced until 1916 the recruits in Source D must have been inspired by sources A and B. However when war broke out the news traveled around Britain incredibly fast; many men felt proud to fight for their nation.

Therefore I must consider that the men in source D signed up because of the pride for their nation and not the guilt instilled in them by sources A and B.4)During World War One conditions in the trenches were horrific; many men suffered from trench foot (rotting of the feet due to constant submersion in water) and shell shock (psychological instability induced by the sound of exploding shells).

The men suffered from various diseases due to malnutrition and from the filthy conditions they lived in. The soldiers were also aware that they were merely cannon fodder and that the army were not concerned with their lives. If this demoralised, disillusioned mentality was to leave the trenches along with details of the army’s current status, not only would information be compromised to Germany it would also destroy the pro-war fever which was well established in Britain. Source E is a post card, which carefully controls what the soldiers can write. It clearly states that if any information is written on the card it will be destroyed. The fact that soldiers can only enter two dates and sign the card means that the government did not want any information to leave the trenches.

In conclusion, the government issued post cards like source E so that no information, which would inform the enemy or demoralise the home front, left the front line.5)During world war one the press was carefully controlled, any information, which was contradictory to the pro-war euphoria, was not allowed to be published. The truth was also contradictory to the image the British propaganda machine was trying to convey. Victories were small and insignificant (typically thousands dead for only a few square kilometers of land). Source H is a first hand and apparently unbiased account of the Somme. It accurately describes the inglorious task of fighting on the front line and specifically stated that the Somme was not a “wild rush with flashing bayonets.”

Source G is a glorious poem, which fills its readers with honor and pride. Source F is a drawing of men chasing a football over the battlefield with men dying for King and country. It is logical that source G was published with source F in 1916 because sources F and G are both pro-war sources referring to the Somme which started in 1916. Both sources reinforce the pro-war euphoria in Britain. Source H is an honest account of the front line, which would undermine the pro-war fever in Britain and could have been written after 1916.6)

Sources J and I portray two very different images of conditions in the trenches. Source I is a picture of a young handsome commanding officer standing above the top of the trenches offering his fellow soldiers some cigarettes. The sky is blue and the ground is green mixed with a light brown. The commanding officer is saluting to his country and in the background is a large gun surrounded by a number of men. Source J paints the picture in words, it describes the battlefield as a “morass of glue-like mud” and gruesomely describes a face, which had been detached from its body and left floating in the mud.

It continues to describe various limbs protruding from the ground and how shell bombardment had destroyed concrete strong-posts. Source I portrays world war one as a secure, happy and proud atmosphere; set in beautiful surroundings where putting ones head above the parapet was not dangerous. Source J however portrays world war one as a massacre where heavy bombardment destroyed everything, ripped people to pieces and turned the ground into sludge.

They paint these two very different pictures of world war one for one simple reason; one is an advertisement trying to sell cigarettes and the other is a primary source written in a man’s diaries as a record of the war. If source I portrayed a similar picture as source J, not only would the advertisement not sell many cigarettes the British government would not have allowed its publication (due to its adverse affect of the home front).7) I believe that sources F and G are unreliable and E is a reliable source of what it was like in the trenches. Source E is an actual post card issued to soldiers on the front line. Its use of set sentences, which can be deleted, as necessary and the prohibition of the addition of extra information on the postcard shows how information was censored during the war.

The defense of the realm act (DORA) was the act passed by the government in 1916 to gear the country for war. Among its changes to British law it gave the government the power to censor any information. Sources F and G however are both examples of First World War propaganda. Sources F is a painting of soldiers chasing a ball across the battlefield and dying for their king and country. Source G is the corresponding poem describing the brave men prevailing through the gun fire as their companions die – their ultimate goal to dribble the ball over the enemy line. However, I know that the Battle of the Somme was a slaughter. Thousands of men died in horrific conditions and little or no progress was made. There was no value on human life, the soldiers were “cannon fodder;” they had no value to the generals. The generals would just send more and more men over the top of the trenches to be mown down by German machine guns.In conclusion, source E is a reliable source because it provides us with an example of the type of censorship that took place during the war.

Sources F and G are unreliable sources of life in the trenches because they directly contradict all first hand accounts of life in the trenches; all historians are aware that the First World War was not a glorious and gallant battle but a slaughter of millions of men.b) I believe sources H and J are both excellent sources of life in the trenches. Unlike sources F and G they are primary sources – normal soldiers fighting on the front line wrote them. They had experienced the war for themselves and have no reason to be biased. Some may argue that the sources were written long after the war and are therefore inaccurate; however I disagree. During the war all accounts and diaries found were destroyed therefore it was necessary for the soldier’s memories to be written after the war.

Both sources are of distinct events, which would have burnt themselves into the minds of the soldiers. Whether it was one year or eighty years after the war the soldiers would be able to remember exactly what happened during the war (the veteran who is now over ninety whose emotions are so strong he still cries when he visits his comrades’ graves is a perfect example of how distinct memories remain with people forever.)Both sources describe the death and destruction of the war and emphasize how dead bodies lay on the ground and how the ground was liquid mud and heavy shelling had destroyed all structures. They both correspond to most accounts of the war including photographs and other soldiers’ memoirs.

I can therefore state that I believe sources H and J and reliable sources of life in the trenches because they both correspond with other soldiers’ accounts of the war and are primary sources i.e. written by people that experienced life on the front line.8)I believe that the government did everything it could to mislead the British people. Source A, B and C are all propaganda. They try to convince the British that the war was glorious and gallant. The popular misconception at the beginning of the war that it would be over by Christmas is another example of how the government lied to the people so that it could obtain the maximum number of recruits. Source E shows how information was censored during the war. It is the only document soldiers were allowed to send home and it only allowed them to delete the appropriate pre-selected sentences, sign and date the card. D.O.R.A. allowed the government to censor information during the war.

The government destroyed all accounts leaving the trenches, which did not complement the war, and it only allowed information, which strengthened the pro-war euphoria to be published in newspapers and magazines. Source F and G were both published in a newspaper during the war. They both show the typical lies that the British people were fed, as we all known now the Somme was not a glorious battle filled with pride and honor. The government purposefully misled the public so they did not find out what conditions were really like in the trenches.

Source I also associates pride and glory with World War One and provides a false image of trench war fare. However a private cigarette company published it and therefore the government cannot be blamed for it misleading affect on the British people. Sources H and J are both primary sources. They directly contradict sources F, G and I. They describe the true suffering and horror experienced by soldiers on the front line. During World War one the government mislead the British people by withholding/destroying information about the front line (via D.O.R.A.) and then providing the public with false information (via pro-war propaganda).9)A historian writing in 1918 would have produced a very different account of life in the trenches than a historian writing much later.

The main reason for this is that the generals on the front line destroyed many of the accounts of life in the trenches. Therefore the only sources available to the historian would have been posters and newspaper articles. However we know that the government had either produced these or influenced/changed their content. Unless the historian spoke to a soldier or went to the front line to see the conditions he/she would not be able to provide an accurate account of life in the trenches.

Since the war did not end until 11th November 1918 it would have been impossible for him/her to speak to soldiers or visit the front line during the war and during the last month and a half of 1918. As time went on more and more soldiers started to write articles and memoirs of their experiences during the war. The war involved so many people it would have been impossible for the government to keep the truth of life in the trenches locked up forever. A historian writing a long time after the war would produce an account based on memoirs and diaries and therefore would provide a much more balanced and accurate account concerning life in the trenches.

A historian writing in 1918 through no fault of his own would write an account praising the war and not including the details which are included in sources H and J. He/she would be ignorant of the suffering and disgrace endured by soldiers during the war. They would write about the glory and pride of the war because that is what his/her sources would have told them about life in the trenches.

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