King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
The Cartoon in Wartime Propaganda

World War One

Bairnsfather cartoonBairnsfather cartoonPoster campaigns used the Union Flag and nostalgic images of England as a rural idyll to encourage soldiers to fight for King and Country.

Other campaigns aimed at improving morale used humour, although to begin with this approach attracted criticism.

Bruce Bairnsfather (1887-1959) served as an officer on the Western Front, an experience that inspired his influential series of cartoons, 'Fragments from France', published in the magazine, The Bystander, from 1915.

Camp silhouetteCamp silhouetteThe cartoons launched perhaps his most celebrated comic creation, 'Old Bill', depicted as a moustachioed British Tommy dodging bullets in the trenches.

The character proved extremely popular and was to feature in numerous plays and films in the 1920s and 30s.

The gentle humour of Bairnsfather's cartoons arguably softened the harsh realities of the war and his usefulness in raising the morale of soldiers and civilians was acknowledged by his appointment as Officer-Cartoonist to the Intelligence Department of the War Office.

While here he produced similar cartoon propaganda for a number of Britain's allies, including the United States.

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