Lord Kitchener WANTS YOU!
World War I began on 28 July 1914 and lasted nearly four and a half years with more than nine million combatant deaths. The Triple Entente of Great Britain, France and Russia with further allied powers would eventually win the Great War after a grinding military effort against the Central Powers led by Germany.
Just one month after Great Britain declared war on Germany, a military recruitment poster designed by Alfred Leete appeared in popular magazine ‘London Opinion’ as the front cover. Conscription wasn’t initiated until 1916 thanks to the Military Service Act and it was vital that an large influx of men was quickly built and sent to the front line. Published on 5 September, that month saw the highest number of volunteers sign up for the war with 462,901 new recruits (as seen below-right).
The poster depicts Lord Kitchener, British Secretary of State for War, pointing at the reader and stating ‘your country needs you’. The graphic was immediately utilised around the country by the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee and was placed in windows and vehicles appealing to the general population. A number of a variants were used which altered slightly from the original.
It would later inspire the famous Uncle Sam recruitment poster from 1917 that was used in both world wars. Drawn by James Montgomery Flagg, more than four million were printed and distributed across the United States. Flagg used his own face as inspiration for Uncle Sam’s appearance.