Amid the scores of patriotic songs of the First World War was a pacifist tune just as well known in its day: "I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier". Written in America before their entry into the war as a way to keeping the country in peace, the song implores mothers to seek peace, least their sons become casualties. The lyrics went like this....
Ten million soldiers to the war have gone,
Who may never return again.
Ten million mothers' hearts must break
For the ones who died in vain,
Head bowed down in sorrow
In her lonely years,
I heard a mother murmur thru' her tears:
I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier,
I brought him up to be my pride and joy.
Who dares to place a musket on his shoulder,
To shoot some other mother's darling boy?
Let nations arbitrate their future troubles,
It's time to lay the sword and gun away.
There'd be no war today,
If mothers all would say,
"I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier."
What victory can cheer a mother's heart,
When she looks at her blighted home?
What victory can bring her back
All she cared to call her own?
Let each mother answer
In the years to be,
Remember that my boy belongs to me!
The song became a hit amongst pacifists around the world and was known in New Zealand. It was mostly derided in the press- when it was sung at an Australian socialist rally soldiers who were in the audience disrupted the song, to the approval of most New Zealand papers but to the condemnation of the socialist 'Maoriland Worker' publication.
Nonetheless, the song was effective enough for recruiting authorities to try and counter it. Patriotic films referenced the song before the hero decided to stand up for his country and join anyway. The slide shown here was displayed as part of a screening at the cinema and urges young men to join whilst quietly disparaging the song.
There are some common visual themes used here which are also seen in contemporary posters and political cartoons. Note the straight back and clean face of the military recruit and compare these to the hunched back of the 'shirker' whose hands rest idly in his pockets and whose face has a vacant expression.
Of all the recruiting slides in MAVtech's collection, this one has the most fascinating background!