Speaker for 17th February 2015

Photo: President John Graham greets Ken Ward, with 2nd Vice, President Jim Archer (L) and club member, Reggie Patterson (R)
Talk by Mr. Ken Ward on ‘WW1 and Aspects of Propaganda’

The Club President, John Graham, welcomed members and guests to the meeting. He then introduced our speaker for the morning, Mr. Ken Ward, the topic of his talk being “The First World War – Aspects of Propaganda”.

Ken began his talk with a question to the members - 'who said this, when writing about Germany's defeat in the first world war - "Propaganda counted in England as a weapon of the first importance, whereas with us, it is the last refuse of unsuccessful politicians and policies here"?' (*Answer at the bottom of the page).

Having surprised the members, Ken went on to trace the history of what we often believe to be a modern invention - 'Propaganda' - and gave many examples of how it was used in the first World War. He then went back to the origins of the word, which can be traced back to Pope Gregory XV in 1622 when he coined the word to 'propagate the faith'. However, Ken pointed out that the idea of using words or more effectively, pictures (to a general population that was unable to read), to present a positive image that may not be totally 'true', that can be seen throughout history. Ken gave the examples ranging from of the Bayeux Tapestry (below) in the 11C ('our gallant Norman boys fighting those nasty Saxons'), to the somewhat 'enhanced' portraits of successive monarchs (especially Elizabeth 1, see our “posters’ extra option at end of report).


Ken illustrated his engrossing talk with many examples as he worked towards the first World War, highlighting the role played by advertising and the press. A striking (and very effective) poster advertising Tea featured the Monarch on the day, King Edward V11. Given some well know aspects of the Kings private life, it is a wonder that they got away with displaying his majesty drinking 'Hornimans Tea'!


By 1914, the Government worried about the actual horrors of war being reported, and it effects on recruitment, brought in the 'Defence of the Realm Act' limiting what 'news' could be reported. A 'War Propaganda Bureau (Wellington House) was established and appointed writer and MP Charles Masterman to head it. The Bureau then appointed many of the currently popular novelists to work there.

Throughout his talk, Ken drew on many photos, films, posters slogans and paintings to show the role they played in recruitment and keeping the morale high in the country. It was an eye-opening and fascinating talk that was expertly presented, but what else would you expect from a professor of history from our University!

Mike Turner, Club Admin

(*and the quote came from - Adolf Hitler, 1924 in 'Mein Kampf')

For a look as some WW1 posters and other extras, just 'click' here