England Expects (1914)

This stirring newsreel item captures a patriotic rally in Trafalgar Square in the early stage of the First World War.

Film details


The item appeared in the Topical Budget edition of 24 October 1914, three days after the actual events on Trafalgar Day (21 October), and just over three months since war against Germany had been declared. The explicit link between the current conflict and Nelson’s great victory over Napoleon’s fleet serves to excite patriotic fervour.

The ghost of Nelson is conjured again when his famous inspiring words are appropriated for one banner: “England Expects that Every Man This Day Will Do His Duty”. Another borrows the words of a contemporary recruitment slogan: ‘No Price Can Be Too High When Honour and Freedom Are at Stake’. The crowd respond to the camera – men raise their caps.

Recruitment for men to join the British Army was instigated by the War Minister, Lord Kitchener, in August 1914. With patriotic feeling running high, men were eager to volunteer – over 500,000 had been recruited by the autumn. At this stage most people expected that the war would be over by Christmas.

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