Much has been written recently in this anniversary year of World War 1 and most, if not all, of this has rightly focussed on the terrible conditions suffered in the trenches and the battles fought by troops on the Front Lines. The traumas experienced by ordinary soldiers and the privations endured in trench warfare are almost unimaginable to us today. Those who were left behind in Britain – the wives, fathers, mothers, brothers & sisters – could only bear the experience of this terrible period as best they could, hope and pray for their loved ones, and ‘do their bit’ for the war effort. On this ‘front’, the citizens of Edinburgh were no different to those in other parts of the UK; they did whatever they could to help the lads on the Frontline.
This little pictorial exhibition of some of the posters that were produced in the years of the conflict and which would have been posted in public places around the City gives some idea of the kinds of things ordinary folk here got involved in – from enlistment itself to raising money – to help bring victory and the War to a close.
There are 6 categories of posters illustrated below:
· Flag Days
· War Loans
· Advice & Exhortations to the public
· Fund-raising events
· Morale-boosting propaganda
Slides 1-3: The Royal Scots is the oldest infantry regiment of the line in the British
Army and both the City of Edinburgh Battalion (15th) and the 2/9th, Highlanders Battalion were raised in the City in September 1914. The 17th (Service Battalion) was formed shortly afterwards by Lord Roseberry and a local committee in February 1915.
Slide 4: The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps was formed in early 1917 and survived under this name till November 1918. Over 57,000 women served during this time. On 31 March 1917 women in the WAAC were first sent to the battlefields in France, 14 cooks and waitresses.
Slides 5 & 6: The Serbian Campaign, fought by the Kingdom of Serbia against Austria-Hungary began in July 1914 and continued to the end of hostilities in November 1918.
During the war Serbia lost more than one million of its inhabitants representing 27% of the total and 60% of the male population – easy to see why the allied citizenry were exhorted to support them.
Slides 7-9: These posters were used to coax Edinburgh & Leith’s populace to financially support various allied countries such as Russia and France or just to raise funds for troops or medical supplies.
Slides 10-15: Just some of the many posters used to help the country raise funds for the war effort – some from central authorities such as the Parliamentary War Savings Committee while others were locally instigated like those illustrated in slides 10 & 14.
The Town Council of Edinburgh had been investing in the War Loan scheme for some time but at a meeting of 6th February 1917 they voted to purchase more with the purpose of re-selling to the citizens of Edinburgh; Lord Provost, John Lorne Macleod put his name to this local plan.
Advice & exhortation to the public
Slides 15-16: These illustrate the effect that German submarine attacks on British shipping carrying food supplies to Britain was having by 1917 – all were urged to eat less and tighten their belts.
Slide 17: As the War wore on not only the death toll but the numbers of casualties rose. This poster encouraged employers to find jobs for those disabled fighting on the Front.
Slides 18-19: These two posters exemplify just some of the other methods used to collect funds for the war effort; these included not only rugby matches and cinema events but also boxing & football matches as well as concerts in public halls. All demonstrate how locals contributed to the overall campaign.
Slides 20-22: These colourful posters show the kinds of morale-boosting propaganda – with film and by photographic exhibitions – that was used in Edinburgh and the country at large to give the populace heart and maintain an esprit de corps throughout the long war years.