Snapshots of Canada’s Past: History is more than just words on a screen or from a textbook; this series is a thematic look back at Canadian history through visual imagery.
Following last week’s post on WWI, we shift gears now to Canadian propaganda posters during the Second World War.
Canadian WWI and WWII propaganda were more different than alike. While both were meant to increase support for the Allied war effort, over the course of the war, propaganda posters shifted from being largely word-based, in formative, and humourous to being aggressive, in-your-face, and design-heavy. The federal government felt the strain of wartime demands and felt that it was necessary to make propaganda more dramatic in the hopes of not only building unity, but to cement the fear and hatred of fascism in citizens. Moreover, during WWI loyalty to the empire underscore much of what was produced. With WWII, a more nationalistic, Canada-central tone emerged. Also, the theme of good vs evil became much more heavily used.
Fun Fact: To demonstrate the jingoistic fervor of the era, I was going to show all of these racist posters that my grade 10 Canadian history teacher showed…only to find out all of them were made in America, not Canada.
Please click on the pictures below to read about meanings behind certain posters, additional changes in propaganda tactics and learn more about Canada during WWII.
The Canadian beaver is going to go kick some German ass with his wooden…spear thing, with help from the British Lion.
Hard work will ensure victory! Or maybe the government just wanted to beavers to join the war effort.
An example of the move away from Britain-focused/loyalty to the empire-based propaganda.
There is so much Canadiana in this poster I can’t even.
Fear mongering has always been a surefire way to raise funds for a cause.
This image depicts a solider with a machine gun, an industrial worker with a rivet gun, and a farmer with a hoe. Remember all those posters to increase enlistment? Well by 1943, the size of our armed forces threatened to deplete workers in essential homeland industries/agriculture. The message was that home front work was just as valuable as those overseas.
Women were the primary figures on the home front and as with WW1, much of the propaganda was directed towards them. However, this time around the image of a strong, working woman was used far more heavily than that of the female victim. The hope was to push women not only to join the work force, but to enlist as well.
Established in 1941, the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) was branch of the Canadian Army created to relieve men from non-combatant roles (listed in the poster) in the Canadian armed forces in the hopes of expanding our war effort. Many of the ad campaigns for the CWAC and the women’s division of the navy and air force all used the sentiment that the non-combatant roles were just as important as the combatant ones. The CWAC was abolished in 1964 when women were fully integrated into the Canadian armed forces.
This image is from a calendar; the proceeds went towards the war effort. It depicts a member of the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service; a member of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps; and a member of the Women’s Royal Canadian Air Force. The message is pretty clear, the more women who join the effort, the faster we’ll win.
“Make no mistake if the Axis should win this war your children will be doomed to a life of slavery and moral degradation.” Won’t somebody please think of the children?! One of the more hyperbolic posters.
Despite the introduction of women in the army, protecting women, mothers, and children continued to pop up every now and then.
Another way to support troops was to buy stamps whose proceeds went towards the war effort. Not sure who they were targeting here…young stamp collectors?
Hitler depicted as the devil was very popular in Allied propaganda.
An elaborate explanation of why gossiping is a bad idea during wartime—you never know who is listening.
Another anti-gossip poster. This time in French and featuring a seriously creepy looking Nazi.
This poster was released following Hitler’s downfall in response to the ongoing presence of anti-semitism.
This is probably my favorite. Although his name cannot be made out from his dog tags, the caption explains that no matter the background of this solider he was a Canadian and that’s all that matters. This poster was meant inspire unity and reduce tension amongst ethnic groups.
“Canadian Second World War Propaganda Posters & Sketch’s,” Canada at War. Accessed from: http://www.canadaatwar.ca/forums/showthread.php?t=2486
“Canadian Wartime Propaganda,” Canadian War Museum (Online Exhibition). Accessed from: http://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/propaganda/index_e.shtml
For a wonderfully exhaustive collection of Canadian WW2 posters, click here!