At Berlin, if Australia voted NO

Accession Number ARTV10141
Collection type Art
Measurement sheet: 50.5 x 37.5 cm; image: 48 x 34.3 cm
Object type Poster
Physical description lithograph on paper
Maker Low, David
Hector Lamond & F J Thomas
Place made Australia
Date made c. 1916-1917
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Item copyright: Copyright unknown


First World War pro-conscription poster by cartoonist David Low, published by John Sands Ltd. Depicts a smiling Kaiser holding a Berlin newspaper; the front page emblazoned with the text 'Kolossal Gewinn in Australien', meaning that massive gains for the Central Powers would be achieved if Australia brings a NO vote for the expansion of conscription to include overseas service. The message is simple: a 'No' vote supports the Central Powers.

This poster was produced as part of the conscription campaign in Australia during the First World War. At the outbreak of war, the Defence Act in Australia supported conscription for home service only, not for service abroad. By 1916, the massive casualties and decline in volunteers saw a desperate shortage in men. Conscription for overseas service was furiously debated in Australia and the then Prime Minister Billy Hughes called two referendums, one in 1916 and another in 1917. Both were defeated, albeit narrowly in 1916. Campaigns for and against were vigilant, each side pushing its cause as more patriotic than the other. This poster also reflects Low's personal belief that the process of voluntary recruitment had become farcical and conscription was the only real means of ensuring a steady stream of recruits.