British Propaganda. . . Boy, They Sure Needed It!
Britain, in the beginning of the First World War, was incredibly weak. She only possessed a small number of professional troops to send towards the warfront after they entered the war in the August of 1914. Since the British were probably the weakest power to fight in the Western front, it was important for them to search for ways to receive recruits. The British government did not issue drafts to force men into the army or threaten anyone to join by use of deadly force. They found a more subtle way that could increase the number of soldiers they had. In order to urge the British people to fight in the war, the government decided to spread propaganda around like a contagion.
Propaganda by definition is information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, or nation. In this case, Britain used propaganda to help themselves in order to harm the enemy. They, however, were not the first country to use propaganda. Germany utilized this powerful instrument of persuasion and nationalistic uproar before the British even started. Despite the fact that they began before them, the Germans did not use propaganda for recruitment purposes. Instead, they depicted the enemy, especially the British, in literary and/or vivid images which stirred their populace into a hostile mindset against the enemy, making them feel as if their enemy was composed of monsters, not humans. Britain, however, reciprocated Germany’s propaganda by creating some of their own. They learned much from the German’s style of propaganda and attempted to improve its quality, strengthening its effect on the people. Their ability to convey a clear, precise message to the citizens made British propaganda highly effective; it was so effective that recruitment offices were usually flooded with recruits. M17 was the name of the British propaganda office organized by the government.
There were many different forms that [British] propaganda showed itself in. These forms ranged from one message to another, whether it was in a newspaper article or a poster (the two most common types of propaganda used by the British). Media was one of their strongest motivators. Not only did they try to convince the public to contribute to the war effort, but they also distorted information given to them by the government in order to produce positive attitude towards the government and the British in the war. Visual media and newspapers made both of those goals possible. Some posters
made men who did not volunteer to join the war feel guilty that they turned their backs against their nation’s army. Others motivated the people to contribute money and goods. Women were influenced by these posters to help serve as the replacements of the men in their jobs as they went to war, working in factories and nurses most of the time. Articles were also written to solidify British nationalism and portray the enemy as horrible as they could. These articl
es usually spoke about British success [and enemy failures] in an emphasized way that they blocked out anything that sho
wed the British army in the negative sense. The government supplied the media with these information with rules for them to follow as well. Atrocities that the German army had made and was reported by the British were fuel and ammunition for the newspapers. In one newspaper, the headline flashed “Belgium Child’s Hands Cut Off by Germans”. Others ranted [in a good way] about how the British won in some fights. They did not release any information concerning their future intents or current battle positions nor requested that the newspaper editors include any severe amount of British losses onto any article. Demoralizing the enemy and gaining support from the people were the only goals that the British government had in this propaganda escapade.
With propaganda i
ncorporated into their game plan, their chances in winning the war with their allies increased. Eventually, the United States came in with their own propaganda, demolishing other countries’ propaganda with their powerful sayings. In the end, however, the British would not have dealt agreat blow against their opponents if it were not for the utilization of propaganda.