M24608.34 | The Empire needs Men! (...) Enlist Now, 1914-18

The Empire needs Men! (...) Enlist Now, 1914-18
Arthur Wardle
1914-1918, 20th century
75.1 x 50.8 cm
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  advertisement (9) , Poster (21) , Sign and symbol (2669)
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Keys to History

When the British government's ultimatum to Berlin expired at midnight Greenwich Mean Time, on August 4, 1914, the worldwide British Empire was automatically at war with Germany. However, self-governing Dominions could decide whether to help. Only South Africa even hesitated - long enough to be left out of Arthur Wardle's famous cartoon. A Dominion like the others, South Africa was torn by civil war as a faction remembered the 1899-1902 war and rallied to the nearby German colony of South-West Africa. They were crushed, and South Africa fought in Africa and sent troops to France. Including India along with the so-called "white Dominions" as a "young lion" was potentially more controversial. India had a large, British-trained professional army that was more significant in the British war effort than all the self-governing Dominions combined in the war's opening years. However, Dominion support was emotionally significant in Britain .

"Canadien" was the common self-description of French-speaking people in Canada. Certainly, many Canadians identified themselves with their Dominion, but in 1914 most English-speaking Canadians would have described themselves as "British" and understood that this British-designed and British-printed poster applied to them.

  • What

    The symbolic British lion and four of its cubs defy Germany in a 1914 patriotic cartoon
    that becomes a recruiting poster by 1915.

  • Where

    Posters were displayed on hoardings and on the sides of buildings as part of an untidy urban environment.

  • When

    The absence of South Africa dates the cartoon from 1914, but it was published and used for recruiting in Britain in 1915 and included in stocks of posters sent to Canada.

  • Who

    The Empire provided Britain with a large reserve of manpower which it had tried to organize and train before the war. India, which was not a Dominion but was governed from Britain, had a large, professional army that fought in France during the first winter of the war, suffering terribly from the cold. Later, Indian troops fought for the British against Turkey.