October 16, 2012

4 Reasons for Buying Victory Bonds

This World War I poster, produced in Canada in 1917, depicts “4 reasons for buying Victory Bonds.” The “reasons” are the four most important German civilian and military leaders, whose faces would have been familiar to many Canadians from news reports: Kaiser Wilhelm II, the German emperor; Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, the chief of the German General Staff; Crown Prince Wilhelm, the son of the emperor and heir to the throne; and Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, commander of the German Navy. Canada, a dominion within the British Empire, was a major combatant on the Allied side, which consisted of the powers of Britain, France, and Russia. To raise money to prosecute the war, the Allied nations sold interest-bearing war bonds, which Canada began calling Victory Bonds (or Victory Loans) in 1917. From 1915 to 1919, the Canadian government conducted five bond campaigns. For each, the Victory Loan Dominion Publicity Committee produced a poster urging Canadian citizens to buy bonds and inaugurated campaigns with ceremonies, parades, and appearances by celebrities. On the application for a Victory Bond during the 1917 campaign could be found these words: “The man, be rich or poor, is little to be envied, who at this supreme moment fails to bring forward his life savings for the security of his country.” Canadians responded enthusiastically. Children joined in by accumulating Thrift Stamps they could use to buy bonds. Communities that raised significant amounts of money were rewarded with a Victory Loan Honour Flag.

A Woman Stands Disconsolate, as Another Bends over a Dead Soldier; A House Burns in the Background

This 1915 poster by Welsh artist Gerald Spencer Pryse (1882–1956) depicts a disconsolate woman, a second woman bending over a dead soldier, and a house burning in the background, all before a colorless, empty sky. Pryse created many lithographic posters based on his experiences in the British army in France and Belgium during World War I, where he served as a dispatch rider and became a decorated British officer. He later gained an official appointment as a war artist, although he had been producing lithographs all along. Pryse witnessed the carnage caused by the war from its early months. In September 1914 he was present at the First Battle of the Marne, which resulted in 263,000 Allied casualties (82,000 deaths) and 222,000 German casualties. This battle would mark the beginnings of the Western front and its futile trench warfare, which lasted four years. In September and October 1914, the artist witnessed the Siege of Antwerp, in which 30,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded. In lithographs such as this one, Pryse captured the haunting sense of sadness and loss these deaths evoked. Many of Pryse’s lithographs unfortunately were destroyed in German offensives.

Help Us Win! The Commercial Bank of Italy

Published in Milan, Italy, sometime between 1915 and 1918, this poster shows an Italian soldier holding his bayoneted rifle in one hand and pointing off to the viewer’s right with the other. Behind him a fire rages. The text urges citizens to “Help us win!” and advertises the latest subscription for war bonds sold through the Commercial Bank of Italy. Like most belligerents in World War I, Italy had to raise funds by issuing war bonds, which were essentially interest-bearing loans that citizens made to the government. Campaigns supported by posters such as this had two purposes. One was to urge Italian citizens to lend money to the government to finance the war. The other was to promote patriotic fervor in support of the war effort. In accordance with a secret treaty signed in London in April 1915 with Britain, France, and Russia, Italy expected to gain territories in Europe as well as parts of the German Empire in Africa in exchange for entering the war against Germany and Austria-Hungary. But the Italian war effort went badly, and many Italians soon turned against the war.

All in One with the Irish Canadian Rangers 199th Overseas Battalion

In World War I, many Irish immigrants to Canada volunteered to serve in the Canadian armed forces. To assist with recruitment, the Canadian government established a purely Irish battalion, the Irish Canadian Rangers 199th Overseas Battalion. Based in Montreal, the unit began signing up volunteers in the winter of 1915–16. Also known as the Duchess of Connaught's Own Irish Rangers, after their royal patron, wife of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Governor-General of Canada, the rangers sailed for Europe in December 1916 and made a triumphal tour of Ireland in January–February 1917. The Irish-Canadians then were sent to France. The battalion never fought as a unit, however. Its men were used to replace soldiers killed or wounded in other Canadian units fighting on the Western front, and on May 17, 1917 the battalion was absorbed into the 23rd Reserve Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. This recruitment poster from Montreal features the insignia of the battalion and a map of Ireland with its four historic provinces: Connaught, Leinster, Munster, and Ulster. The name of commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel H.J. Trihey, is listed at the bottom.

Daddy, What Did You Do in the Great War?

Until the entry into force, on March 2, 1916, of the Military Service Act introducing conscription, Great Britain’s World War I army was comprised entirely of volunteers. Many of the most famous wartime posters were recruitment appeals. This 1915 poster, designed and printed by Johnson, Riddle & Company of London for the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, shows a father in the comfort of his postwar home, being asked by his children, “Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?” Commercial advertising in mass-circulation newspapers and magazines was a well-developed industry in Great Britain by the early 20th century. The efforts of many of its most talented practitioners—graphic designers, copy writers, and artists—flowed into the wartime propaganda effort. This poster, with its imagery of middle-class comfort and its play upon the psychology of the father, reflects the influence of the advertising industry on wartime appeals to patriotism and service. The “Great War” was the term generally applied in Europe, especially prior to World War II, to what later became known as World War I. This poster shows that the term was in widespread use already by 1915.

India Restores Her War Cripples to Self-Support

This 1919 poster, created for an exhibit of the Red Cross Institute for Crippled and Disabled Men and the Red Cross Institute for the Blind in India, features scenes of disabled Indian Army veterans of World War I, who had learned to support themselves by becoming automobile mechanics and carpenters. Queen Mary’s Technical School, shown here, was established in 1917 by Lady Marie Willingdon, the wife of governor of Bombay (present-day Mumbai) province, Lord Willingdon, to assist Indian soldiers wounded in the war. The Indian Army was a major contributor to the British war effort. In 1914–18, it recruited 826,868 combatants and 445,592 noncombatants for the Allied cause. Indian troops served in France, East Africa, Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), Egypt, Greece, and Aden and the Persian Gulf. The Indian Army also sent labor corps to France and Mesopotamia. Indian Army casualties were officially estimated at 64,449 killed and 69,214 wounded. The army was recruited from throughout British India, a vast territory that included present-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Burma.