Arf-a-mo, Bert Thomas decides it’s time for a Christmas tree

The Goose Step: Christmas number of the Humorist for 1939 with a Bert Thomas cover

The Goose-Step: Christmas number of the Humorist for 1939 with a Bert Thomas cover

Bert Thomas was one of the most famous illustrators of the First World War – renowned for the grinning Tommy lighting a pipe with the caption ‘Arf a Mo’, Kaiser!

So the weekly Humorist turned to the veteran artist for its first Christmas number of the Second World War. ‘The Goose-Step’ was the result, with the Tommy bringing back a Christmas tree and goose to Estaminet – French for The Tavern. The look in his eye suggests he knows the woman’s waiting for him.

The soldier was probably understood to be a member of the 158,000-strong, but poorly-equipped, British Expeditionary Force, which was sent to France in September 1939. It was stationed on the Belgian–French border until Germany’s blitzkrieg ended what had been called the ‘phoney war’ in May 1940.

It was the Humorist‘s first wartime Christmas cover – and its last. Paper rationing led to the Humorist becoming a small-format monthly before being merged into London Opinion, a sister magazine at George Newnes.

From 1905, the British Cartoon Archive notes, Thomas began drawing for Punch, a link that continued until 1948. He also drew for London Opinion from 1909 until 1954, when that magazine was merged into Men Only. London Opinion is today famed for publishing one of the few cover illustrations more famous than Thomas’s  ‘Arf a Mo’, Kaiser! This was Alfred Leete’s ‘Your Country Needs You’, which became the Great War recruiting poster of Kitchener.

Bert Thomas’s signature is shown below.

>>A History of British Magazine Design by Anthony Quinn (May 2016)

Bert Thomas's signature from the Humorist, 25 December 1939

Bert Thomas’s signature from the Humorist, 25 December 1939

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