The Only Road for an Englishman


This World War I poster shows a column of soldiers marching past ruins and appeals to British men to enlist in the armed forces by claiming that the only road ahead is “through darkness to light; through fighting to triumph.” Until March 2, 1916, when the Military Service Act introduced conscription, Great Britain’s World War I army was comprised entirely of volunteers and many of the most famous wartime posters were recruitment appeals. This illustration, by an unknown artist, depicts the destruction of a very old building, possibly a medieval cathedral, wrought by the Germans in Belgium or France, and invokes this destruction as a reason for Britons to enlist. The poster reflects the way in which both sides, the Allies and the Central powers, depicted World War I as a struggle for survival, a fight to the finish between civilization and barbarism, in which no compromise was possible.

Last updated: February 10, 2014