Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Rudyard Kipling's Views on War Propaganda

Some interesting 1918 notes on propaganda for newspaper magnate Lord Beaverbrook prepared by Rudyard Kipling:

Beaverbrook and Kipling


As far as I can make out it is more important just now to feed munition-works with steadying propaganda than any other class; because they seem to be the most isolated.

What they need, among other things, is news and description of the actual work done by the material they produce . . . Oratory of some sort or another is the workman’s intellectual excitement – he has a great respect for the gift of the gab – and his education for the past seven or eight years has made him peculiarly accessible to both oratory and the cinema. The two together are the strongest combination.


Take first the case of Aeroplanes. When once a machine is despatched, no word of its performances in the field comes back to the factory. This is as stupid as preventing trainers and ostlers in a racing stable from being told what their horses are doing on the turf. I suggest . . . that arrangements could be made with the Air Service whereby the make and types of the machines employed in any special success should be communicated to the factory that produced them. 

This in conjunction with cinema work of aerodrome and air stunts. It is not generally realized that a large number of aeroplane workers in factories have the very sketchiest ideas of what an aeroplane does or can do. I should go so far as to say that a lecturer on the development of the aeroplane would find his most interested audience in an aeroplane factory.

Click on Image to Expand

The Sort of Factory That Needed Propagandizing


The same idea holds good with guns – specially big guns. The results of big “shoots” appear to be tabulated at the front, and are given from time to time in the press. It would be amply worth while where guns from certain makers (there are not many of them) are worked together to give the workers in the factories concerned the results, as far as ascertained, of our counter-battery work, expenditure of munition etc, together with any details of guns which had noticeably exceeded or fallen below the average of a gun’s life. The whole to be posted from time to time in the dining rooms as in the case of aeroplanes, and to be followed up by cinemas of guns in action, dumps, explosion of dumps, and the general life of the battery. . . . 

As I have said above the operatives have astonishingly small knowledge either of how one factory uses the goods turned out by another, or what is done with the material. The old hands are naturally ignorant of war; the young fellows taken on at fifteen or sixteen who are now eighteen or nineteen are, by the very necessities of their work almost equally ignorant of what has taken place during the war; the women look at life from a different angle to the men, and the discharged soldiers who have come back to the factories do not – quite rightly – talk much about war.

Source: Excerpted from National Archives Documents by the Times Literary Supplement Website; Photos from the National Portrait Gallery and Tony Langley Collection

1 comment:

  1. Apparently at this time the word 'propaganda' was just a descriptor, with no negative connotation.