When war was declared many people in Britain were excited. Lots of young men joined up as a wave of patriotism swept over the nation. However, not all young men were keen to sign up straight away and the government used different methods to encourage them to sign up. Propaganda posters like the ones reproduced left were used widely to encourage men to sign up. Films were also produced and shown in local cinemas. Young men were also stigmatised (labelled) if they did not sign up. They were considered to be cowards.
Women were told to encourage their male relations to join the army. Women were encouraged to give white feathers as a symbol of cowardice to any young men they saw in the street who had not joined the army. There were many men given a white feather who had indeed been at the front, but who had been discharged or who had been retired from the services as a result of sickness or injury caused by their war service.
Partly as way of identifying these men, the Silver War Badge (inset) was introduced 12 September 1916.
After April 1918 the eligibility was amended to include civilians serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps, female nurses, staff and aid workers. Around the rim of the badge was inscribed “For King and Empire; Services Rendered”. It became known for this reason also as the “Services Rendered Badge”. Each badge was also engraved with a unique number on the reverse, although this number is not related to the recipient's Service Number. The recipient would also receive a certificate with the badge. The badge was made of Sterling silver and was intended to be worn on the right breast of a recipient's civilian clothing. It could not be worn on a military uniform. There were about 1,150,000 Silver War Badges issued in total for First World War service.
Edited 18 March 2016
Originally published as part of an exhibition at Leyland library September 2014