"ENLIST TODAY - He's happy and satisfied, are you?" That's what the poster says. It was glaring at me as I sat in a London pub with my girlfriend and her mates. I'm here to interview Pat Mills tomorrow, the writer of one of the most famous anti-war comics ever published, Charlie's war. I'm a bit shook up to see this poster sat there like a quaint bit of tat. In reality it's a terrible reminder of how totally f#cked up we are as a race. There will have been people who, as a consequence of that poster, will have signed up to go fight in the war. And they'll have died in terrible circumstances.
That's more than a little bit f#cked up.
But there everyone was buying drinks and being wacky in its shadow. It grated on me so much I couldn't really relax and when someone mentioned that I seemed to be preoccupied with the posters I agreed with them and started taking photos with my camera phone. I knew I'd post them up here in the end. This is of course the place where all my odd musings land.
What surprised me was the sheer number of these posters. There must have been about ten different types of them. As far as I could make out they're all from the 1st world war as well. So they're not even able to claim to have been part of a worthwhile conflict*.
This next one isn't quite as clear but it read "YOUR KING & COUNTRY NEED YOU - TO MAINTAIN THE HONOUR and GLORY of the BRITISH EMPIRE". What the f#ck? It's a totally different world. You wouldn't even consider putting out such a poster nowadays, even the thick c#nts that it's aimed at would laugh at it.
Inevitably I started ranting at my girlfriend and her mates, who I'd just met, and they were polite and agreed with my impotent mumblings. My lady, who writes adverts, laughed at the idea that in reality what will have happened is some poor copywriter will have been given a breif; "do us some adverts for cannon fodder".
It was still amazing to me that these posters were on display rather than being hidden, buried long ago with the rest of our society's shameful secrets, like Keith Harris and Orville. The one that really blew my mind though was this one...
Looming over us in the pub it still retained some of its power. The inscription in full reads: "IT IS FAR BETTER TO FACE THE BULLETS THAN TO BE KILLED AT HOME BY A BOMB - JOIN THE ARMY AT ONCE & HELP TO STOP AN AIR RAID - GOD SAVE THE KING". What's so awful about this is that they knew air raids were not a serious threat in the 1st world war. The few that did happen were not a major success. Nothing like the second world war for example. They're using the psychological fear of someone killing your loved ones to make you go fight 'for the King'. It made my headspin to think of the people who would have been scared witless by that poster. Imagine it in context! It'd have non of the quaint charm back then. It would be telling you that the destruction of civilisation as we know it is just days away unless you grab a gun and go killing people you've never met before!
It put me in a bit of a stinker of a mood. Particularly given that I was in London, the home of it all.
*If there really is such a thing. I know it's not very fashionable but I'm starting to wonder. My grandad fought in the 2nd world war and he never really recovered from it. Ever.