About this record
This is a black-and-white recruitment poster for the Australian Imperial Force captioned, 'Are you shooting breakers when YOU SHOULD BE BEHIND A GUN?'. The poster shows a photograph of a soldier lying on the ground shooting a Bren light machine gun. Behind him is a sketch of a man surfing in a similar pose. Text at the bottom of the image appeals to men to 'Get square with your conscience: Enlist to-day. JOIN THE AIF'.
- Is an example of the use of a poster to deliver war messages from the Australian Government to its citizens during World War II (1939–45) – in 1939 Australia entered the war, declaring war on Germany, and then in 1941 declared war on Japan.
- Is an example of a recruitment poster designed to encourage men to join the army – men were encouraged to enlist as volunteers, as Australia did not introduce conscription for overseas service until February 1943.
- Uses the name AIF, which stands for Australian Imperial Force – the first AIF was formed in World War I and the Second AIF in World War II; the Second AIF fought in North Africa, the Middle East and Greece before being called back to defend the homeland when Australia declared war on Japan in 1941.
- Reveals pride in the role of the AIF – Australia had two armies during the War, the home-based Militia, who did not fight overseas, and the AIF, raised from voluntary enlistment, who felt themselves to be superior and referred to the Militia as 'chocolate soldiers' or 'koalas' (endangered species; not to be exported); the Militia redeemed themselves in 1942 when they successfully fought off the Japanese attack in Papua New Guinea.
- Shows the Bren light machine gun, a highly accurate portable weapon used by Australian infantry that fired 0.303-inch calibre ammunition.
- Reveals a fear of invasion from Japan in the reference to 'enemy attacks on our beaches' – Japan planned to conquer the whole Pacific region, including Australia, and attacked Australia in 1942.
- Is an example of the work of the Commonwealth Advertising Division, set up in 1941 within the Department of Information, primarily to advertise recruitment drives for men's and women's services, munitions work, war loans and national savings campaigns.
- Uses emotive copywriting designed to persuade men to enlist – it appeals to shame ('Are you shooting breakers WHEN YOU SHOULD BE BEHIND A GUN?'), masculinity ('Play a man's part') and fear ('Unless you want to see enemy troops on Australian beaches').
- Uses an iconic Australian theme for propaganda purposes, with the image of the surfer and the text about breakers and beaches.
- Portrays a message visually – while the image of the surfer mimics the pose of the soldier, the artist has deliberately drawn the surfer in thin sketchy lines while the stronger and better defined image of the soldier is taken from a photograph, echoing the theme that only the soldier is doing a real job.
Learning resource text © Education Services Australia Limited and the National Archives of Australia 2010.