Saturday, February 2, 2013

"Faith, There's No Wan Could Be Bolder" - Irish-Canadian Recruitment Posters (1916)

These posters were used to try to get Irishmen in Canada to join the Irish-Canadian Rangers, a unit of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, created in August 1914 in Montreal. It sought to draw on the large Irish (born and descended) community in the city at the time and the unit did indeed claim that upwards of 70% of its men were drawn from the city's Irish community. These colourful posters were created partly because by 1916 it was hard to find men in Montreal who wanted to fight and hadn't yet signed up and the Rangers were in competition with other units also looking for recruits. I found a contemporary description of these posters from The Irish-Canadian Rangers, 1916, a short book explaining the genesis of the Rangers.

"The problem of recruiting a battalion for overseas is a very great one these days, when it really constitutes itself an educational campaign. The 199th Battalion followed certain precedents of other battalions by issuing posters for the purpose of publicity. The first poster was designed to symbolize the make up of the new unit, consisting of a large maple leaf in autumn occupying the centre of the poster flanked by shamrocks. In the center of the Maple Leaf are shown two young soldiers grasping hands pointing to a legend, "Small nations must be free." The second poster was a map of Ireland bearing the legend, "All in one in the Irish-Canadian Rangers." This poster particularly exemplified the purpose of the battalion, uniting the people of the North and of the South in the common cause against a common foe. The third poster was typical of the sportsman side of the Battalion and indicated that there was a place in the Battalion for men of this class in no unmistakable terms. The fourth poster was typically Irish, representing the Irish country boy marching away to war from his cottage and calling upon his countrymen to join. The fifth poster was a reproduction of the famous painting of a soldier's mother, bearing the legend: "Fight for her." The sixth poster showed a soldier in the King's uniform standing on the slope of Mount Royal looking towards the harbor filled with the necessary transports ready to take troops overseas, bearing the inscription, "We go next."

By May, 1917, now in England, the Rangers were absorbed into the 23rd Reserve Battalion.

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