This poster, designed by British illustrator John Hassall (1868–1948) and issued in 1915 for the National Committee for Relief in Belgium (London), depicts a personified image of Britannia offering solace to a mother and her children. The text calls attention to three million destitute Belgians and urges British citizens to contribute to their relief. In the early weeks of World War I, the German military marched through Belgium on its way into France. Germany soon occupied most of Belgium, a densely populated country that relied on imports for most of its food supply. As the winter of 1914–15 approached, millions of Belgians faced starvation. Future U.S. president Herbert Hoover, who was living in London at the outbreak of the war, put his vast business experience to work in forming the Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB). From 1914 to 1919 the CRB distributed nearly $1 billion in aid, including five million tons of food, to feed Belgian and French citizens behind German lines. Fearing that the Germans would divert imports to feed their army and insisting that Germany, as the occupying power, had a responsibility to feed the local population, the British government initially was suspicious of the relief effort. But Britain came to accept the distribution of relief under neutral auspices and both directly subsidized and encouraged private citizens to contribute to the relief effort.
Printer: Crowther & Goodman
References: George I. Gay and H.H. Fisher, Public Relations of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, 2 volumes (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1929). | Bert Thomas, “Hassall, John (1868–1948),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
Place: Europe; Belgium; Europe; United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Institution: Library of Congress
Physical description: 1 print (poster) : lithograph, color ; 98 x 62 cenimeters