War recruitment poster

You can shorten the road – To Victory. Join the ATS, a rare poster designed by the Shamir Brothers sold for $6000 (£4700) at Ishtar Auctions.

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Less well known, and much harder to find, are the posters that encouraged thousands of Jewish women to serve in a variety of combat support roles in the Middle East.

The idea of Jewish women serving in the British army was not without its opponents, in Britain or in the Yishuv (the Jewish community in Palestine prior to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948).

However, after representatives of local women’s organisations formally requested that the British Army open the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) to volunteers from Mandatory Palestine, permission to draft up to 5000 women was granted in October 1941.

The first class of 60 women designated to become officers and NCOs appeared for duty at the British Army camp at Sarafand in January 1942.

Due to religious objections, not all eligible women were actually enlisted in the ATS, but an estimated 3500 Hebrewwomen were recruited to the ATS and 700 to the WAAF (the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) over the course of the war. Arguably their finest hour was the Second Battle of El Alamein (October 23 to November 4, 1942) when ATS drivers trucked in Allied troops and weapons to the front lines, helping secure the victory that was the beginning of the end of the western desert campaign.

Numerous recruitment posters were made at the time encouraging women to volunteer – many of them designed by the Latvian-born brothers Gabriel and Maxim Shamir who had opened a graphic design studio in Tel Aviv in 1935.

Typical of their work is the rare 2ft 2in x 19in (65 x 48cm) 1943 poster offered at Ishtar Auctions (25% buyer’s premium) in Israel on March 7. To the foreground is a woman driver dressed in the ATS uniform while written in Hebrew the slogan reads You can Shorten the Road to Victory, Join the ATS.

The Shamir Brothers Collection at the National Library of Israel – the subject of an exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in 1999 – holds a huge archive of similar works but this example sold at a treble-estimate $6000 (£4700).