© McCord Museum
The Empire needs Men! (...) Enlist Now, 1914-18
1914-1918, 20th century
75.1 x 50.8 cm
© McCord Museum
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 .
The symbolic British lion and four of its cubs defy Germany in a 1914 patriotic cartoon
that becomes a recruiting poster by 1915.
Posters were displayed on hoardings and on the sides of buildings as part of an untidy urban environment.
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.
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.