Why did they go to war?

What would persuade you to go to war, and possibly to die? Adventure? Duty? Propaganda? Friendship? Money? This section explores some of these.

Soldiers came to Gallipoli from all over the world and the three recruitment posters below show three ways that the army tried to persuade them to join up.

Your Country Needs You Poster Art.IWM PST 2734

In this famous British poster Lord Kitchener stares straight at you, appealing to your sense of patriotism and duty. Art.IWM PST 2734

Free Trip to Europe poster Art.IWM PST 12220

This Australian poster cleverly sells the idea of signing up as an opportunity to travel and see the world (but make sure you read the small print!). Art.IWM PST 12220

Who Will Take This Uniform, Money and Rifle Indian recruitment poster Art.IWM PST 12574

For young Indian men looking for a way to improve their lives, the offer of a uniform, money and a rifle was a strong reason to sign up. Art.IWM PST 12574

A short interview on CBC – Canada’s national TV and radio organisation – considers how young men were given the idea that going to war would be a great adventure.  There is an extract from the British poet John Masefield’s book about Gallipoli describing how excited the men were to be there.

Beechworth State School cadets. Photo courtesy Beechworth Primary School and Max Waugh

Cadets at Beechworth State School, Australia (Photo: Beechworth Primary School, Max Waugh)

Perhaps your school trained you to be a soldier – this was certainly the case in Australia where all boys aged 12-18 had to attend military training, so that by 1912 there were 89,000 trained senior cadets, many of whom went to war in Europe.  ‘Soldier Boys‘, a book by Max Waugh, describes this.

Australian historian Peter Stanley is still concerned that the Australian curriculum is too militaristic.  Watch his video here.




All sides used recruitment posters to encourage young men to sign up. Follow the links to find out more about recruitment in Canada, Germany and Britain .