'Go ! It's Your Duty Lad. Join To-Day'
This poster was published by the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee (PRC) in June 1915. Whereas earlier government recruiting literature had reminded young women of their duty to encourage loved ones to enlist, this poster appeals directly to mothers to put aside selfish reasons and ensure that their sons heed the call. It was not a popular design, partly because of its hectoring tone but also because of its similarity with contemporary commercial advertising which was becoming an increasingly resented feature of the PRC's campaign.
The bold background colour and use of a central figure to point out the message could have been used to advertise one of a dozen popular brands, as critics noted at the time. A spoof version of this poster appeared in 'The Bystander' magazine (8 September 1915) with the alternative wording 'For a 19/9d Suit, of Nutty distinction and cut by masters of the Sartorial art, GO to.'
The problem lay in the way new designs were created by commercial printers on behalf of the government with little, or no, official guidance. Inevitably, this led advertisers to deploy well-worn and familiar methods of persuasion which ultimately served to alienate potential recruits. As the 'Daily Mail' commented in April 1915, 'advertising for people to go to the war [has become] just like advertising for people to buy a popular cigarette or a new boot polish'.
The public reaction to the inappropriateness of this approach caused alarm at the War Office where a more direct appeal to patriotism and duty was preferred. It was also blamed for contributing to the decline in voluntary enlistment which in turn raised questions about the effectiveness of the PRC's methods.
NAM Accession Number
National Army Museum, Out of Copyright
National Army Museum, Study collection