Mobilisation by Shame

Before the First World War continental European armies were largely young conscripts who had no choice but to fight. In 1914 the British Army, however, was very different, with first professionals and then volunteers. The British Government and military relied on propaganda to justify war to the people and used songs, images and mottos to promote recruitment to the armed forces. Jingoistic nationalism, sentimental appeal, dehumanisation of foes and xenophobic national stereotypes were all invoked to justify Britain’s entry into the War. They have been since and will be again.

One of the most enduring images of the First World War is the poster with Lord Kitchener with his big moustache and finger with ‘Your Country Needs YOU.’ British recruitment posters changed from appealing to an individual’s honour to ‘mobilisation by shame’. Emotional blackmail like ‘Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?’ and ‘Women of Britain Say—“GO!”’ were both popular ways of encouraging recruitment. British propaganda posters showed Germans were to be feared, hated and slain like St George slayed the German dragon.

A deep seated hatred of foreigners has always helped the professional British forces kill more people than other conscripted armies.

Looking at the mass of poppies outside St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, it’s hard to comprehend the sheer scale of the death and destruction.

Remember; We’re all human. Here’s to everyone who died.

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