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Propaganda & Censorship
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During World War 1 the government used propaganda in various ways to keep the public on their side. Their main aims and examples of propaganda include:

  • Keeping support for the war up and maintaining moral.
  • Getting people to join the armed forces.
  • Causing hatred of the Germans.
  • Propaganda was used in children's toys to support the war and cause people to hate the Germans.

In 1916 the government sanctioned the release of the film 'the battle of the Somme', some of the footage was from the real battle and some shot in Britain, but the film was so realist it could be seen as anti-war, naturally the graphic nature of seeing men dying upset many viewers.

This video looks at some of the propaganda of World War 1 from the British and French sides.

Attitudes to the war

At the start of the was most peoples attitudes were positive, they thought the war would be over by Christmas, and men were proud to fight for king and country. However, by the end of the war attitudes were very negative with the vast majority of society wanting to see the end. This was due to the vast amount of men dying on the battlefield, civilians being killed by zeppelins (German airships that dropped bombs) and the German Navy (a total of 1500 civilians died over the course of the war), and some saw rationing as a hard ship. However there were some positive outcomes of the war such as the changing roles of women within society and the new opportunities they received. 

A poster of John Bull (seen below), the typical representation of the British. John Bull appears to be pointing demandingly at 'you', putting guilt on any person looking at the poster and not having joined the army. The poster makes it appear as if joining the army is your duty and not optional. The troops have gaps between them, this suggests that these gaps are for the missing men who have yet to join.

John Bull Propoganda poster

At the start of WW1 in 1914 there was only 250,000 men in the army. This meant the army would need to recruit hundred of thousands of extra troops to win the war with Germany. 

  • All news was tightly controlled (censorship)
  • Reports aimed to: Maintain morale Encourage civilians to support the war effort Create hatred and suspicion of the enemy
  • Newspapers, radio broadcasts, films and even board games were used
  • The film, The Battle of the Somme, was filmed in 1916
  • The Battle was a disaster for the British Army
    • Failed objectives
    • Enormous causalities
  • The film, The Battle of the Somme, is seen by historians as a propaganda triumph
  • People at home felt they could see how their efforts were helping the troops
  • Although it showed some casualties, it also showed advancing troops, helping morale
  • The film, Britain’s Effort, was created in 1917
  • It is hard to measure how effective propaganda was BUT Support for the war was reasonably constant
  • Only really changed with the enormous causalities at the Battle of the Somme in 1916
  • People read lots of newspapers, and watched the films, so they were being exposed to it
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