Take up the Sword of Justice


This 1915 poster, published in London for the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, shows a figure rising from the sea to offer a sword, with a sinking ship and drowning victims in the distance. The reference is to the Lusitania, the British passenger liner that was torpedoed by a German submarine off the southern coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915, while en route to Liverpool from New York, with the loss of nearly 1,200 people. Until March 2, 1916, when the Military Service Act introduced conscription, Great Britain’s World War I army was comprised entirely of volunteers. Many of the most famous wartime posters were recruitment appeals. The Parliamentary Recruiting Committee was set up following the outbreak of war in August 1914. It was a cross-party organization chaired by the prime minister, Herbert Asquith, and it used the infrastructure of the British political parties in parliamentary districts to support recruitment for the armed forces. Party activists were called upon to distribute leaflets and organize rallies, processions, and public meetings. The committee commissioned some 200 posters, which were mostly published before the introduction of conscription. This poster, number 105 in the series, is by Sir Bernard Partridge (1861–1945), an English caricaturist and illustrator who was the principal cartoonist for Punch from 1891 until his death.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, London


Type of Item

Physical Description

1 print (poster) : lithograph, color ; 102 x 63 centimeters



  1. Roy Douglas, “Voluntary Enlistment in the First World War and the Work of the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee,” Journal of Modern History 42, number 4 (December 1970).
  2. E. V. Knox, “Partridge, Sir (John) Bernard (1861–1945),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Last updated: February 10, 2014