5 Of The Most Famous Wartime Posters

Did you know that this year marks 100 years since the end of the First World War? Considered one of the bloodiest ever with 35 mission casualties, this conflict that involved most of Europe, Russia, the US and the Middle East.

In the UK everyone pulled together for the war effort. With women working in the munition factories to men fighting on the front line. During this time advertisements helped boost morale and let everyone know how they could help.

Together with foamex signs printing company, Where The Trade Buys, here is a look at some of the most iconic World War 1 posters, and examines if they did or didn't work.

Keep Calm And Carry On

Keep Calm and Carry On was part of a motivational campaign and is instantly recognised today. It featured the slogans 'Freedom is in peril, defend it with all your might’ and ‘Your courage, your cheerfulness, your resolution will bring us victory’. It was designed to calm everyone in the crisis that was the beginning of World War 2 and install a sense of Britishness and togetherness.

Why was it successful?

It actually wasn't that successful as people found the posters patronising, ambiguous and inappropriate. They were designed under the misconception that the nation would be hit by bombing after bombing with countless casualties immediately after the declaration of war. So, when the war was declared, and this didn’t happen, this didn't make much sense. Many also interpreted the ‘your courage will bring us victory’ as soldiers and the general public must make sacrifices on behalf of the upper classes and high-ranking army officials, which added to their lack of appeal.

Thankfully, one of the original copies of the poster was found in 2000, and this lead to the slogan being used on mugs, pens, t-shirts and more ever since.

The Women’s Land Army (WLA)

Some of the most memorable posters created were the recruitment posters for the Women’s Land Army. With over a million men recruited at the end of the first year of World War 1, there was a significant work shortage and the posters were devised to recruit women to take over jobs in agriculture.

Why was it successful?

It was successful because it showed how capable women manual labourers were. With the image of a woman dressed in loose dungarees working in a field, it appealed to women who wanted to have a different life to the domesticated lifestyle they were accustomed too. Just two years after its launch in 1915, there were over a quarter of a million women working on British farms, with approximately 23,000 in the Women’s Land Army.

Britons join your country’s army

This poster was designed by Alfred Leete in World War 1. It features the British Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, pointing at the reader. The slogan ‘wants you’ was aimed directly at men to enlist. At the time, Lord Kitchener was a well-known and very respected military leader and statesman to the public — an opinion not necessarily shared by all of his cabinet peers. The image used was successful as millions of men signed up after the poster's launch in September 1914.

Why was it successful?

It was successful due to the clever use of words and images to evoke an emotional response. The finger pointing seems directly at the viewer, whilst the words 'God save the king’ made people feel patriotic. The clear call to action was also attention-grabbing 'Join your country’s army!’

Dig for Victory

The saying ‘dig for victory’ is still recognised today as being associated with World War II. During this time, feeding those left at home became a great concern and something needed to be done as imported produce was hard to get.

Launched around a month before World War II broke out, The Ministry of Agriculture launched the poster to encourage the public to grow their own food to ease the pressure on rationing. This campaign was international, with ‘victory gardens’ proving just as popular in countries like Canada, Australia and the US.

Why was it successful?

The simplicity of the slogan, the image of someone digging and the eye-catching red of the poster appealed to a wide range of people, with its sense of taking action. With lots of urban areas transformed into makeshift allotments the number of allotments reached over 1.75 million.

Air raid shelter warnings 

With the risk of bombings throughout the first world war, it was essential that people became aware of air raid shelters - a new concept. Posters were, therefore, placed in or at entry points to make it clear where they were and what you could take in with you.

Why was it successful?

This air raid warning poster, which was placed outside of London’s tube stations, had a clear purpose and it worked. Using different-sized fonts, it separates each piece of information into the level of importance: first location, a place for shelter, second that any injury here is not the fault of anyone but the wounded person, and the last that certain creatures and objects are forbidden.

Figures show that around double the number of people used tube stations to shelter from bombings between May 1917 and May 1918 than during The Blitz attacks of 1940.

Have you heard of some of these campaigns?

*Collaborative post


  1. There are so many famous posters from the wartime but i don't think any is as iconic as keep calm and carry on! xo

  2. These are all really fascinating, but scary at the same time! The Keep Calm poster must be the most popular poster ever, and I've never seen the Land Army one before, but it's excellent!