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April 27, 2008

Propaganda Misfire?

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

I was leafing through a book about the history of posters and happened upon this:


"What England Wants!" - Egon Tschirch, 1918

It was inspired by a 3 January 1918 Daily Telegraph article quoting Labour party member Johnson-Hicks (I can't find more detailed information on him) as saying "One must bomb the Rhine industrial area day by day with hundreds of airplanes, until the cure has occurred." -- the "cure" being destruction of the German armaments industry. A German translation is at the bottom of the poster.

The intended message was probably something like "Those evil Englishmen are out to destroy us!"

To me, looking at that huge swarm of bombers, the unintended message is "Holy s**t! Those Limeys have a gazillion bombers to throw at us! We're DOOMED!!!"

I'm not sure why, but my distant cousins from along the Rhine never quite get public relations right.



posted by Donald at April 27, 2008


At last some of the arcana of British history that I studied years ago comes in handy ...
You can't find information on "Johnson Hicks" because he didn't exist. The poster refers to William Joynson-Hicks (later 1st Viscount Brentford), who did indeed make speeches like the one quoted. However, I don't know why they call him an "Arbeiterfuehrer": he was a very Tory Tory, and would probably have sent bombers to destroy the Labour Party's HQ if he thought he could get away with it - and had the bombers in the first place.

Posted by: British History Freak on April 27, 2008 7:21 PM

Well if my memory of history serves me corectly starting in about 1943 hordes of British bombers were decimating goodly parts of the Rhineland and the rest of Germany ( can we say Dresden and fire bombing). So some propaganda may just be more than fearmongering. It's all tribal at the end of the day, don't you see.

Posted by: Coram on April 27, 2008 8:30 PM

Hey, you know what they say: the smartest thing the Austrians ever did was convince the world that Hitler was German and Beethoven was Austrian.

And, yeah, PR was never the German forte (they got blamed for WWI and all), but they more than make up for it in heavy industry. The US had to help them rebuild after WWII because Europe wasn't going to recover without them.

Posted by: SFG on April 27, 2008 9:06 PM

Did either side actually carry out massive bombing raids during WWI? My impression is that planes were used for scouting and in one on one dog fights or were equipped with single bombs expended with great care. There were no fleets of bombers carpet bombing...or were there? This was 1918, the fourth year of the war, so maybe there were bomber fleets in existence by then. Anyone know?

Posted by: ricpic on April 27, 2008 9:19 PM

In answer to ricpic, yes, there were fleets of heavy bombers at work as early as 1918. They were nothing like the numbers and capabilities achieved in War Two, of course, but they existed. The Germans sent dozens (?) of Gotha bombers at one time to bomb London, while IIRC both the French and British air forces deployed their own multi-engined, long-range aircraft agianst targets behind the German lines and in extreme western Germany.


Posted by: Narr on April 28, 2008 11:17 AM

Don't forget the Zeppelins, Nar. They bombed as far north as Edinburgh.

Posted by: dearieme on April 28, 2008 12:47 PM

Dearieme, how could I (or anyone) forget the Zeppelins? I thought of mentioning them, but since they were proving a military dead end even by 1918, and the original post was about airplanes, I thought to keep it simple.


Posted by: Narr on April 28, 2008 5:34 PM

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