Propaganda in World War I was particularly influential in the years 1915 and 1916 when it was at its peak, serving to recruit volunteers in the hundreds of thousands each year. The recruitment propaganda of the time achieved its aim in a number of ways. Firstly, it influenced men through means of persuasion, fear, guilt, confrontation and accusation (Australian Propaganda, 2016). It appealed to the emotions of the women, friends and family of those who were eligible to go to war.
Upon Australia hearing the news of the declaration of war, the response was excitement and devotion. Not surprisingly, this initial eagerness resulted in Australia quickly fulfilling 20 000 men that she had pledged to the British Empire. Propaganda was used to influence people to think in a particular way. There were two types of war propaganda at the time. The first was recruitment propaganda, a popular method that influenced people to enlist. The second was conscription propaganda which encouraged people to vote for or against conscription (World war I, 2017).
From the beginning, Australians embraced World War I with an enthusiasm that had never been experienced before and will probably never be seen again. Australian men rushed to enlist but many were turned away because they were not able to meet the rigorous physical standards of the time. These standards, included a minimum height of at least 167.6cm and a chest size of 86.4cm, as well as a full set of teeth without any fillings (Australian Propaganda, 2016). Many men travelled hundreds of kilometres to attempt to enlist at a different office in the hope that perhaps a minor ailment, which was the reason for their previous rejection, could be overlooked.
While the initial response to war was one of extreme enthusiasm and patriotism towards Britain, support began to waver. It had reached a peak at the time of the landings at Gallipoli but it was not long after that the realisation of war hit Australian shores. With the first lists of casualties, the Australian public had a sudden awakening that their fathers, brothers, sons, husbands and friends might not all return safely home as previously expected (Australian Recruitment Propaganda WWI, 2016). The public’s attitude turned quickly, which was reflected in weakened recruitment figures.
In response to Britain’s request for more troops, the Commonwealth government realised that strategies had to be implemented to encourage more people to enlist. In July 1915 some standards for entry were amended to widen the target market for recruits. This included lowering the minimum height restriction to 157.5cm, which enabled men who were not previously eligible to enlist, to do so (Australian Recruitment Propaganda WWI, 2016). In that same July, a two-week recruitment campaign was run in Victoria to encourage more enlistments (World war I, 2017). As part of this drive, campaign meetings were held during which patriotic speeches were given, often by injured war heroes. In addition, films of heroic action on the battlefields of Gallipoli were shown. Among these various recruitment ploys, perhaps the most effective and popular types of propaganda were the colourful posters displayed everywhere across the nation.
Propaganda, in its written and visual form, it is an effective mechanism that employs various simple techniques to sharpen existing beliefs, establish authority, create fear, appeal to patriotism and to be selective and present a one-sided version of the truth. Propaganda during the World War I. Australian government possessed the duty under British imperial rule to provide recruits to fight for the empire. Thus, the government’s control over the entire propaganda scheme was crucial in gaining the national support needed for ultimate victory (recuitment , 2018). Many rushed to support the country and empire. Some believed it was a man’s duty, others were seeking a chance for adventure and many felt the pressure from friends and family to join. However, once the initial excitement died down and the horrors of the war were exposed recruitment numbers dropped. Propaganda in the form of flyers, newspaper articles, cartoons and posters became the cheapest and arguably the most effective tool to reach the Australian population and appeal to the patriotic hearts and minds of not only the men, but also (Nurses, 2018).