Lord Kitchener – the life of his image. Part 5

London Opinion cover from 5 September 1914HMS Hampshire sank on 5 June 1916 on her way to Russia, taking Lord Kitchener down with her. Kitchener was the face of the Empire and had led the biggest recruiting campaign in modern history, a campaign that also changed the nature of propaganda, advertising and graphic design. This is the fifth post this weeek based based on images from Kitchener Wants You, a book I have written with Martyn Thatcher that examines the story of the man, the famous poster and how that image has retained its hold on the imagination of people across the world.

Leete’s image today

private_eye_2016june_kitchener.jpgDaily mail 1961 July 14 ridicules Macmillan as KitchenerEvery day, someone, somewhere, makes use of Alfred Leete’s 112-year-old drawing of Kitchener. Above is an example from this week’s Private Eye magazine, making a pun on ‘EU’ and ‘you’ with ‘Your country doesn’t need EU’ as part of its EU referendum coverage. The wording also refers back to one of the early subversions of the image – the Daily Mail ridiculing Harold Macmillan, the prime minister, with the words: ‘But does your country need you’ (1961).

And it’s not just the press. In the village of Harkstead in Suffolk today, I walked past a reproduction of one of the First World War posters with the wording: ‘Your Country Needs You … to help repaint the village playground.’ From Britain’s leading satirical magazine to a village noticeboard, it’s difficult to escape that iconic Kitchener image. The images below give a hint of the reason why.

In summary: The magazine cover that started it all
London Opinion cover from 5 September 1914

Alfred Leete’s London Opinion cover in September 1914

The idea of the recruiting poster catches on across the globe
One of three recruiting posters that used Leete’s image in 1914-15

One of three recruiting posters that used Leete’s image in 1914-15

US artist James Montgomery Flagg copies Leete’s idea for Leslie’s (6 July 1916)

US artist James Montgomery Flagg cover for Leslie’s (6 July 1916)

One of many US recruiting posters used from 1917

US posters used Flagg’s artwork once the US entered the war in 1917

The image is revived in WW2 and continues to be used
Picture Post for the week of 1 June 1940

The Hungarian editor of Picture Post uses Leete’s image in 1940



russian kitchener_1941

Russian poster from WW2: ‘You. How have you helped the front?’

Leete’s image sparks many ideas
Big Brother poster in film version of George Orwell’s 1984 (published 1949)


Big Brother poster from a film of George Orwell’s book 1984, which was published in 1949

Punch deplores the loss of Sudan civil servants (1955)

Punch deplores the way local civil servants are treated in the Sudan (1955)


Daily Telegraph 1955 magazine chooses Leete artwork as an iconic image

Daily Telegraph marks its centenary and chooses Leete’s artwork as an iconic image of the past 100 years

Philip Magnus biography of Kitchener as an imperialist

Biography of an imperialist by Philip Magnus with an Osbert Lancaster caricature

Daily mail 1961 July 14 ridicules Macmillan as KitchenerDaily Mail ridicules Harold Macmillan, the prime minister (1961): ‘But does your country need you’
The stern pointing image is subverted in Britain and then the US

2016 Stanford version of the 1962 Joan Littlewood play Oh What a Lovely War

Kitchener’s face is a symbol of Carnaby St in the Swinging SixtiesA symbol of Carnaby St in the Swinging Sixties 1967_Honey_magazine_cover_as_kitchenerGirl power 1967-style on cover of young women’s magazine Honey Black activists in the US portray Uncle Sam as trying to wipe out their race (1968)

Black activists in the US portray Uncle Sam as trying to wipe out their race (1968)


From the late 1960s, Vietnam War protestors subverted the imagery. This is from 1971

Leete’s image continues to resonate to this day
recruitment poster based on Leete's Kitchener imageFirst army campaign aimed at recruiting officers from ethnic minorities  (1997)

2002 Dr Who magazine with Lethbridge Stewart in the Kitchener pose (August 21)

Lethbridge-Stewart fronts Dr Who magazine:  ‘We want you as a Who recruit!’ (2002)

The Economist puts the US Treasury secretary in the Kitchener pose in 2008

Financial crisis: Economist cover of US Treasury secretary Henry ‘Hank’ Paulson (2008)

Radio Times has used Leete’s image for Robbie Williams, Lord Sugar and Jeremy Paxman

Radio Times has used Leete’s idea for Lord Sugar, Robbie Williams and Jeremy Paxman

Karl Marx as the Uncle Sam derivative of KItchener

Uncle Sam – arch symbol of capitalism – is  used by the Karl Marx library in London (2016)

READ THE BOOK: Kitchener Wants You by Martyn Thatcher and Anthony Quinn

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