A propaganda poster, warning people to prevent the information they have from falling into enemy hands, is an example of rules in wartime.

“Beware of Spies!” First World War propaganda poster.(external link)

“Beware of Spies!” First World War propaganda poster. Archives New Zealand. AD1 44/283.


Although the war would probably have felt very far away from New Zealand, it was important to be vigilant here about how information was shared to make sure it stayed out of enemy hands. Posters such as this one gave guidelines on how to keep military information safe. About 6,000 Germans and Austrians lived in New Zealand during the war, and there was wariness about where their allegiance might be placed. Some Germans taken as prisoners of war or accused of spying were imprisoned on Matiu (Somes Island) or Motuihe Island.

During times of conflict or increased insecurity, rules or laws are often tightened to try and control people’s behaviour. We also have rules that help us to stay safe on the roads and in our communities or to create a fair and safe environment. We use rules in sports and games to create a common understanding about how to play the game. Rules can be useful.

Key questions

  • What can we observe?
  • What do we already know?
  • How might people view this poster in different ways?

Possible discussion questions

  • Who would have read this poster? Why did they need to be reminded of these things? What types of information might they have had that would have been valuable to the enemy?
  • What might have been some positive or negative consequences of this type of propaganda poster?
  • Why do we have rules?
  • What kinds of rules apply to you?
  • Are there good rules and bad rules? How do you know if a rule is good or bad?
  • What other kinds of behaviour expectations do you have in your family or in your school?
  • What are the consequences when rules or expectations aren’t met?
  • Do you think the rules in this poster are fair in the environment of wartime?
  • Do you think rules should change during times of war or when there is a threat of war? If so, what type of rules might need to change?
  • Do you think that creating rules and consequences are a good way of managing people and avoiding conflict?
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