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The Last Poster

T this is a short page

for a short series. In 1914 England and Empire were plunged into the darkness of World War One.

The hardware of war was becoming increasingly sophisticated which had the unpleasant effect that the software, or Infantry, was struggling to keep up.

There was a period when, rather than try to alter the tactics of old commanders, which saw men marching slowly across no man's land into the teeth of machine guns so the few that did get across could decorate German barbed wire; it seemed easier to just find more young men to stretch the foes ammunition supplies.

The phrase "More Men And Still More Until The Enemy Is Crushed" ascribed to Lord Kitchener pretty much sums it up.

there were smiling faces everywhere

This phrase dominated the recruiting poster issued by the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee and is also one of the twelve cards which made the set Wills, Recruiting Posters [1915].

I have often committed on the more literal approach Wills took with much of its subject matter and this set typifies this approach to my mind. Whereas Gallaher and others were content to produce sets of cards depicting the daring-do of Victoria Cross holders for young smokers to be inspired by Wills just reproduced small versions of recruiting posters.

90 years later there is something vaguely amusing about this route one approach. But cannot imagine much amusing being reminded whilst walking down your local high street, having purchased your favourite packet of smokes from the tobacconists, that it was almost an act of cowardice not to be waist deep in sewage and offal waiting for the command to go over the top.

WILLS, RECRUITING
POSTERS [1915]

One of the posters shows Tommy stepping out with pipe in mouth, underneath reads an extract from a letter, "The moment the order came to go forward, there were smiling faces everywhere." There is no text on the reverse on this card or any other beyond the manufacturer, title and explanation of where the poster came from.

It would be discourteous to suggest the grins were from the Germans as from all interviews I have heard on this subject there was a mixture of horror and bewilderment that such tactics were employed.

Certain things strike you after looking at the cards for a while. For example nobody is wearing a tin hat and the only poster showing a soldier marching across no-man's-land is bear headed. It is also obvious from the posters selected that cannon fodder was a primary resource required to continue the war effort. There is no evidence of recruitment for the Navy can naturally enough because of the early date no sign of a recruitment for the Royal Flying Corps.

At 12 cards this series is over rather too quickly which was nothing like the war itself. They say no matter how good or bad anything it is, it all ends in the end.