Canadian First World War, Recruitment, Enlistment, Campaign Posters 1914-18.

Circa 7 years ago I acquired copies of enlistment, propaganda, sensitive, campaign, first world war posters from LAC, Library Archives Canada. The collection consists of over 2000 posters from Canada, Briton, France, American, and French Canadian, with other languages depending on the regional area in Canada. 6 years ago around 15 Canadian FWW posters were found on line until I posted over 50, not counting Second World War Posters.


Since I have over 1500, I’ll post several categorise blogs:


Canadian First World War, Propaganda, Victory Bond, Campaign Posters, 1914-1918.

Canadian/British, Red Cross. Y.M.C.A. First World War Posters, 1914-1918.

Des Affiches Canadien-Français Durant La Première Guerre Mondiale, 1914-18.



Main Source: Dr. Serge Durflinger.


During the First World War, the Canadian government used posters as propaganda devices, for fund raising purposes and as a medium to encourage voluntary enlistment in the armed forces. Posters were an important form of mass communication in pre-radio days and hundreds existed during the war, some with print runs in the tens of thousands.

Because of Canada’s bilingual character, recruiting poster images and text reflected different cultural traditions, outlooks and sensibilities. Recruiting posters remain snapshots in time, helping historians understand the issues and moods of the past.

The French-Canadian recruiting posters on display in the Les Purs Canayens exhibit reflect Canada’s pressing demand for manpower during the First World War. They also indicate the underlying social, cultural and political strains which affected Canada’s war effort and influenced military policy. Most French-speaking Canadians did not support Canada’s overseas military commitments to the same degree as English speakers.

At the outbreak of war in August 1914, the Dominion of Canada was constitutionally a subordinate member of the British Empire. When Britain was at war, Canada was at war: no other legal option existed. Nevertheless, Ottawa determined the actual nature of Canada’s contribution to the war effort, not London.

When Canadians learned they were at war, huge flag-waving crowds expressing loyalty to the British Empire drowned out voices of caution or dissent. The war would be a moral crusade against militarism, tyranny, injustice, and barbarism. “There are no longer French Canadians and English Canadians,” claimed the Montreal newspaper, La Patrie, “Only one race now exists, united…in a common cause.” Even Henri Bourassa, politician, journalist, anti-imperialist, and guiding spirit of French-Canadian nationalism, at first cautiously supported the war effort. Few Canadians could have predicted at this time that their nation soon would become a major participant in the worst conflict the world had yet seen, or that the war would place enormous political and social strains on Canada.



Recruitment: Policy versus Reality.

The Conservative government of Prime Minister Robert Borden immediately offered Britain a contingent of troops for overseas service. Thousands of men enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), then assembling at Valcartier, Québec under the personal, if chaotic, supervision of Sam Hughes, the exuberant Minister of Militia and Defence. There was a surplus of volunteers and selection standards remained high; some men, in fact, were turned away. On October 3, a convoy of ships carrying nearly 33,000 Canadian troops departed for Britain. In December 1914, Borden announced solemnly that “there has not been, there will not be, compulsion or conscription”. To find whatever manpower might be necessary, Borden placed his faith in Canadians’ patriotic spirit.

Fully two-thirds of the men of the first contingent had been born in the British Isles. Most had settled in Canada in the 15-year period of massive immigration which had preceded the Great War. The same attachment to the Mother Country was less obvious among the Canadian born, especially French Canadians, of whom only about 1000 enlisted in the first contingent. At the time war was declared, only 10 percent of the population of Canada was British born. Yet, by the Armistice in 1918, nearly half of all Canadians who served during the war had been born in the British Isles. These statistics indicate that voluntary enlistments among the Canadian born were never equal to their proportion of the population.

Following the despatch of this first contingent, the Department of Militia and Defence delegated the task of recruiting to militia units across the country. This decentralized and more orderly system raised a total of 71 battalions — each of approximately 1000 men — for service overseas. Posters, which appeared in every conceivable public space, were an important part of this large recruiting effort. The poster text and images were usually designed and printed by the units themselves and tailored to local conditions and interests. Many of the posters on display are good examples of these.

Recruitment, however, was already tapering off in the fall of 1915. In October of that year, Ottawa bowed to the pressure of patriotic groups and allowed any community, civilian organization or leading citizen able to bear the expense to raise an infantry battalion for the CEF. Some of the new battalions were raised on the basis of ethnicity or religion, others promoted a common occupational or institutional affiliation or a shared social interest, such as membership in sporting clubs, as the basis of their organization. For example, Danish Canadians raised a battalion, two battalions recruited “Bantams,” men under 5 feet 2 inches tall, and one Winnipeg battalion was organized for men abstaining from alcohol. Up to October 1917 this “patriotic” recruiting yielded a further 124,000 recruits divided among 170 usually understrength infantry battalions.

In July 1915, with two contingents already overseas and more units forming, Ottawa set the authorized strength of the CEF at 150,000 men. Extremely heavy Canadian casualties that spring during the Second Battle of Ypres indicated that additional manpower would be required on an unprecedented scale. There would be no quick end to the fighting. In October, Borden increased Canada’s troop commitment to 250,000; by the new year, this had risen to 500,000. This was an almost unsustainable number on a voluntary basis from a population base of less than eight million. Within months, voluntary enlistments for Canadian infantry battalions slowed to a trickle.


French Canada and Recruitment.

Following the nation-wide outbursts of patriotism in August 1914, French-Canadian support for the war began to decline. There existed among French Canadians a tradition of suspicion and even hostility towards the British Empire, and, while sympathetic to France, Britain’s ally, few French Canadians were willing to risk their lives in its defence either. After all, for over a century following the British conquest of New France in 1760, France showed no interest in the welfare of French Canadians. In North America, les Canadiens had survived and grown, remaining culturally vibrant without French support. By 1914, while an educated élite in French Canada professed some cultural affinity, most French Canadians did not identify with anti-clerical and scandal-ridden France.

When a French government propaganda mission toured Québec in 1918, Bourassa spoke for French Canada when he wrote of the irony of the French “trying to have us offer the kinds of sacrifices for France which France never thought of troubling itself with to defend French Canada”. In short, neither France nor Britain was “a mother country” retaining the allegiance of French Canadians. The “patriotic” call to arms rang hollow.

French Canadians’ language and culture seemed more seriously threatened within Canada than by the war in Europe. In 1912, Ontario passed Regulation 17, a bill severely limiting the availability of French-language schooling to the province’s French-speaking minority. French Canada viewed this gesture as a blatant attempt at assimilation, which it had resisted for generations. Bourassa, who by 1915 saw the war as serving Britain’s imperial interests, insisted that “the enemies of the French language, of French civilization in Canada are not the Boches [the Germans]…but the English-Canadian anglicizers…” Bourassa’s acerbic campaign against the “Prussians of Ontario” had a major impact on recruiting for “Britain’s” war. The Montreal daily, La Presse, judged Ontario’s unyielding Regulation 17 as the main reason for French-Canadian apathy. To English Canada’s calls for greater French-Canadian enrollment, Armand Lavergne, well-known nationaliste, replied: “Give us back our schools first!” Wartime appeals for unity and sacrifice came at an inopportune time.

French Canada’s views were reflected in low enrollment numbers. Yet, most Canadians of military age, notwithstanding language, did not volunteer. Those tied to the land, generations removed from European immigration, or married, volunteered the least. Significantly, these characteristics applied most often to French Canadians, although many rural English-Canadians were not enlisting either. If British immigrants are not counted, the respective contributions of French and English Canadians are more proportional than the raw data would suggest.

French Canada supplied approximately 15,000 volunteers during the war. Most came from the Montreal area, though Québec City, Western Québec and Eastern Ontario provided significant numbers. A precise total is difficult to establish since attestation papers did not require enlistees to indicate their mother tongue. Though French Canadians comprised nearly 30 percent of the Canadian population, they made up only about 4 percent of Canadian volunteers. Less than 5 percent of Quebec’s males of military age were enrolled in infantry battalions, compared to 14-15 percent in Western Canada and Ontario. Moreover, half of Quebec’s recruits were English Canadian and nearly half of French-Canadian volunteers came from provinces other than Québec. The result was an angry national debate concerning French Canada’s, and especially Québec’s, manpower contribution. Read More;…irst-world-war



Click on any image and the large poster window will open.



5th Regt. RHC Source McGill    ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????    5th Royal Highlanders of Canada Black Watch 2nd Reinforcing Company.



73rd Royal Highlanders of Canada, Young Man the Privilege of Service is Yours.  13th, 42nd, 73rd Batt Black Watch   73rd Royal Highlanders of Canada, You'll Find a Lot of Good Fellows in the Kilties.



Young Man You Have a Chance to go With the New Regiment.  224 Batt. Bushmen & Sawmill Hands Wanted for the Canadian Forestry Units Overseas recruitment campaign.     176th. Battalion Completed on Time, Grand Rally in the Griffin Theatre, March 12, 1916.



   Canadian Engineers at the Front the Sapper is a Foreman.   Canadian Grenadier Guards 245th Overseas Battalion recruitment campaign.



Construction Men, Bushmen, Sawmill Men & Chauffeurs Wanted to Join the 242nd Canadian   Forward! to Victory with the 245 Overseas Canadian Grenadier Guards Battalion  Join the 215th Overseas Battalion.



Le 178e Bataillon canadien français des Cantons de l'Est  On demande 150 conducteurs de chevaux pour la 57ième Batterie  recruitment campaign. Tous les vrais poil aux pattes s'enrôlent au 163ième C.E.F. Campagne de recrutement (2)



Grenadiers Five to One Needed to Take Each Trench.     Do It Now! Enlist in the 142nd Battalion recruitment campaign.            Canadian Mounted Rifles recruitment campaign.



Canadian Engineers Want Men for Home Service. All in One with the Irish Canadian Rangers 199th Overseas Battalion   recruitment campaign.227 OS BATT. All Eyes Are On You If You Are Fit Fight.



199 Batt. Jump into Your Place in the Sportsman's Company of the Irish Canadian Rangers Overseas Battalion recruitment campaign. Whist, Ye Scots! Ye Men O' The Clans The Kilties are Coming.Join the 236th Kilties Battalion recruitment campaign.



Make Us as Proud of You as We Are of Him! 63rd Battery C.F.A.  recruitment campaign. Recruits Wanted - 86th Machine Gun Battalion  recruitment campaign.Tradesmen, Join the Canadian Engineers.



Why Don't I Go The 148th Battalion Needs Me recruitment campaign  205 Batt. The Biggest Game Ever Tackled Are YOU in the Line Up Be One of the 154th Battalion recruitment campaign.



253rd Highlanders, Grand International Ball Game. 1914-18. 77th Overseas Battalion A Unique Entertainment, Assault-At-Arms.



Canadian Engineers, Your Turn Has Come.Enlist with the 255th Queen's Own. CDN FLD ART 400 Gunners and Drivers Wanted Overseas with Horses and Guns.



irishcanadianrangers_mcgill   Join the Ottawa 73rd Battery Nuf Said.



McGill University Auxiliary Battalion Infanrty Training C.O.T.C.   The 244th Overseas Battalion recruitment campaign.  W.A.A.C. Every Fit Woman Can Release A Fit Man Join the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps Today women recruitment campaign.



Why Don't They Come Join the 148th Battalion recruitment campaign. ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????  221st  Batt. Miss Edith Cavell Died for Her Country Oct. 12th, 1915.



255th Batt.  OS CEF There's a Man You Know, Who Ought to Go, Give Us His Name.  Fall in the Grenadiers Our 78th Battalion recruitment campaign.



Canadian Grenadier 245th Guards Overseas Battalion. Come Into the 90TH Regiment.



C Battery, Recruits Wanted. Join The Royal Canadian Dragoons.



Men Wanted, Canadian Army Service Corps. This Is Your Flag It Stands for Liberty - Fight for It Join the 207 Overseas Battalion recruitment. We Go Next! Irish Canadian Rangers.



You Are Needed to Take My Place Go With Kitchener's Own the 244th Batt.  recruitment campaign. 5th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards are Recruiting.



53rd Regt. Recruits Wanted for Imperial Service.   10th Regt. Royal Grenadiers The Canadian Troops for 3rd, 19th & 123rd Batt..   Artillery Heroes at the Front Say Get into a Man's Uniform recruitment campaign.



5th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards are Recruiting.    Come Now, Your Arms, Uniform and Accoutrements are Ready Waiting for You, be Honest with Yourself  recruitment campaign.



Britons and Canadians Fight under Your Own Flag.   Britons and Canadians in the U.S. Show Your Loyalty to the   If You Can't Fight Lend Your Money, Buy War Loan Bonds.



Come On! Don't Spoil a Good Fight for Want of Men to Win It, Join Now.    The Empire Needs Men Answer the Call.



Daddy, What Did You do in the Great War 1914-18.  Enlist Canad a in yiddish    The Jews the world over love liberty poster.



Enlist! New Names in Canadian History FWW recruitment campaign. Fight for Her Come with the Irish Canadian Rangers Overseas Battalion  recruitment campaign.  Forward to Victory, Enlist Now  recruitment campaign, 1915.



Send More Men - Won't You Answer the Call, First World War Poster   Where Duty Leads, the Soldier's Return by Robert Burns  recruitment campaign.



You Are No Exception Join Now recruitment campaign.  If You Can't Fight Lend Your Money, Buy War Loan Bonds.  Your Chums Are Fighting Why Aren’t You



How Can You Cheer for the Boys When They Come Home.    Volontaires de la Réserve de la Marine Royale Canadienne Division D'Outre Mer.


Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve Overseas Division recruitment campaign.    The British Commonwealth in Arms.



The Empire's Need Men Munitions Money, Which Are You Supplying!   The Scrap Of Paper Enlist Today.



S.O.S. Soldiers of the Soil, Come On Canadian Volunteers.     The Navy Wants Men Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve recruitment campaign.



69 Battery Artillery, Recruits Wanted.    Irish Canadians 199th Battalion, CEF. Archives publiques de l'Ontario,
43rd Regt. Canadian Defence Force.  72nd Queens Battery Is Rapidly Filling Up.



108th Regiment Overseas Company, Wanted 250 Men Physically Fit.  Canadian Engineers for Overseas Service.



Come Into The Final Drive with The Queen's University Highlanders. Have You Asked Yourself, Is British Freedom Worth Defending.



Hear Sargent A. Gibbons Who Was a Prisoner of War. Join The Grenadiers for Overseas Service or Canadian Defence Force.



Men Wanted, Canadian Army Service Corps. Service With The Canadian Engineers.



The Princess Pats, Have You Looked Over The Top.    Tradesmen, Join the Canadian Engineers.



We Want You in the Divisional Ammunition Column.   Your Chums 38th Ottawa Battalion.  Heroes of St.-Julien and Festubert.



Gagnons le Drapeau du Prince de Galles, Emprunt de la Victoire.  4 Questions to Men Who Have Not Enlisted.  227th OS Batt. All Eyes Are On You If You Are Fit Fight.



248th Greys 1000 League Each One Get One!   Get Ready to Enlist in the Essex Battalion.    Halt! Who Goes There Recruit for the Highland Brigade All Right Pass in You're Next.



Canadian Engineers, Recruits Wanted.    5th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards are Recruiting.



Join the 207th, No Job Can Compare With The Job We Offer You.  Join The Queen's Field Ambulance.



Loyal Talk Won't Beat Kaiser Krupp Kultur.   Men Who Can't Go Overseas Can Join in the Militia.



Murdered by the Huns, October 12th, 1915, Enlist in the 99th and Help Stop Such atrocities.    No Person May Point The Finger Of Scorn If You Join The Princess Pats



The Thin Khaki Line Keeps the Fate of Belgium.  63rd Battery Your Opportunity, Wanted Gunners and Drivers.



67th University Battery.   70th Battery Canadian Field Artillery, Recruits Wanted.    90th Winnipeg Rifles. Enlist Now in the Little Black Devils.



241st Battalion CEF Wanted Signallers. 255th Batt. There's a Man You Know, Who Ought to Go, Give Us His Name. An Appeal From the Men of the 99th.



Canadian Engineers Recruiting Divisional Signal Company.    Canadian Engineers Want Carpenters, Bricklayer..



Enlist in the Army Medical Corps. Enlist with the 255th Queen's Own.



Join The Royal Canadian Dragoons.  Skilled Mechanics, Now is Your Chance Straight to France.



The 53rd Regiment Recruits Wanted For Imperial Service.  Wanted Immediately 500 Men for the Inland Water Transport Section.



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