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

Air leaflets

British troopsBritish troopsThe advent of the balloon in the late 18th century made airborne advertising and leafleting possible.

Political pamphlets dropped from balloon were a feature of Edwardian election canvassing, and British propagandists adopted the same methods during World War One.

Leaflet drops over British cities supported government campaigns, notably fundraising efforts such as Tank Bank Week in late 1917. An estimated 26 million leaflets were also distributed over German and occupied lines to damage the morale of German soldiers and spread black propaganda.

Infernal depiction of Churchill in Kladderadatsch leaflet dropped over GermanyInfernal depiction of Churchill in Kladderadatsch leaflet dropped over GermanyMillions of leaflets were dropped in all theatres during World War Two. Britain's Bomber Command distributed safe conduct passes, fake newspapers and even copies of Churchill's speeches designed to reassure men and women in occupied territories, and wavering Germans, that they had nothing to fear from the Allies.

The Nazi propaganda machine was equally active. For example, German leaflets were distributed by V1 rockets while fake issues of Time magazine were dropped over American airfields in East Anglia in 1943 that showed the bodies of US aircrews lost over Germany.

Towards the end of the war, Nazi leaflets warned that 'no one wants to be killed in these last five minutes', exploiting their own imminent defeat as a reason for American soldiers not to risk their lives needlessly at this late stage.

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