Propaganda and patriotism: WWI exhibition in Hackney

Art of War portraying the impact of the First World War in Hackney. Pic: Sian Filcher

Art of War portraying the impact of the First World War in Hackney. Pic: Sian Filcher

One poster reads: “SINGLE MEN. Hundreds of thousands of married men have left their homes to fight for KING & COUNTRY. Show your appreciation by following their noble example.” Another urges “men of the empire, to arms!”

Both are examples of original propaganda posters on show at an exhibition looking at the impact of the First World War in Hackney that opened today.

The main focus of the exhibition, which opened on February 23 at Hackney Museum, is a collection of recruitment posters encouraging men to enlist in the war. It provides an insight into the communication methods used in order to recruit more soldiers and the pressure to enlist.

The exhibition also shows patriotic songs that were composed during the war, such as The Arm of Today’s Alright by Vesta Tilley which uses encouraging lyrics: “I joined the army yesterday so the army of today’s all right.”

Extracts from the diaries of L. Maddison and Harold Juniper, soldiers from Hackney, can be seen on one wall. One extract reads: “When the bomb was dropped on the railway I crawled under the table with my Grandmother; some windows were broken.”

Cllr Jonathan McShane, cabinet member for Health, Social care and Culture in Hackney said: “At a time of national commemoration Hackney is giving people an opportunity to understand more about how people were recruited to fight, while learning about those who objected to the war.”

Hackney, which had a strong German community at the time of the war, saw aggression towards German-owned businesses such as Engel’s Bakery, Chatsworth Road, which was attacked on August 5 and 6, 1914.

Rudolph Carter, 50, from Hackney said: “It is interesting to see just how many people were involved.”

The exhibition will be running from February 23 until May 28, 2016. 

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