Posts Tagged ‘Blighty’

On this day in magazines: Magazines try to change their names in 1920 and 1959

February 28, 2017
Record Weekly was the new title for New Illustrated in 1920

Record Weekly was the new title for New Illustrated in 1920

Two magazines here demonstrate a similar approach to refocusing a magazine on a new audience – though exactly 39 years apart. One failed, one worked.

The first, New Illustrated of 28 February 1920, had already changed its name on 15 February the year before from War Illustrated. Now it was changing to The Record Weekly. Quite a challenge for a weekly magazine. And it did not work. Despite one of the most acclaimed editors of the era, John Hammerton, being in charge at Amalgamated Press, the biggest publisher of the era, the last issue was dated March 20. Clearly, it a was desperate change that was given little time to succeed.

Blighty Parade magazine was a step in changing the title from Blighty to Parade (1959, February 28)

Blighty Parade was a step in changing the title from Blighty to Parade (1959, February 28)

In 1959, the magazine environment was changing quickly. A men’s weekly magazine that still had a military feel – Blighty – needed to change tack and respond to the threat from television and the new men’s magazines such as Spick and Span. Blighty had been founded as a free weekly for the troops in the First World War, and the idea was resurrected for WWII.

The magazine had long run a feature called ‘Picture Parade’ and some bright spark reckoned ‘Blighty’ was outdated as a name. So Parade it would be. However, simply changed the name was regarded as too big a step. So, a plan was put in place to do it in stages over several years:

  • 1959: The name becomes Blighty Parade, at first with the Parade very small.
  • By the end of February 1959 , they were about an equal weight.
  • This continued until November, when the Parade dominated, but the Blighty was retained throughout 1960.
  • By January 1961, the Blighty was dropped and the Parade title was run right across the top of the cover and down the left side.

This change was obviously done far more slowly than on Record Weekly. The strategy worked, with Parade soldiering on into 1970. It became more aggressive in its pin-ups, with topless shots in each issue. However, the likes of Penthouse, Mayfair and Playboy were even more aggressive and Parade folded. The title was bought by a pornographic publisher and continued on the top shelf.


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design


The genius of colour printing

June 19, 2015
Blighty pin-up cover for the popular men's weekly by MB Tompkins in 1958 (16 August)

Blighty pin-up cover for the popular men’s weekly by MB Tompkins in 1958 (16 August)

Colour printing has always seemed to me to be a bit of a miracle – seemingly every colour under the sun can be printed from just four colours, cyan (sky blue), magenta (a pinky red) yellow and black. The colours are abbreviated as CMYK – with K being black, the ‘key’ colour. In theory, the black is not necessary because the other three should merge to black, but in practice, the result is a bit washed out, more a murky brown.

In the 1950s, when this cover was printed, the colour painting of the glamorous dancer would have been photographed through a filter and a metal screen to produce a sheet of printing film for each colour. The screen would be a metal screen capable of showing 150 lines to the inch. The film would taped on to the other pieces of film of each colour for the rest of the page and then paired up with its partner page – the back cover in this case – and that assembled film used to make a printing plate for each colour. Each plate would have been wrapped around its cylinder on a four-unit press. When the paper is run through the press, each colour ink in its turn would have been passed from the printing plate on to the paper. The overprinting of the colours builds up the image.

Detail showing dots of printed ink from the lower face of Blighty magazine cover in 1958

Detail showing dots of printed ink from the lower face of Blighty magazine cover in 1958, Click on the picture to see it in more detail.

Look at the magnified detail here and you can see individual dots for each colour. In the bottom left, there are dots of pure cyan. You can see that the dots are in regular lines at an angle of about 10 degrees to the horizontal. In the darker blue areas, you can see black dots among the cyan. The skin tones are mainly magenta with yellow highlights. The red lips are a combination of magenta and yellow. The teeth are simply the white paper. You can make out some of all the colours in the black areas.

Blighty was a popular men’s weekly magazine published by City Magazines at 64 Fleet St, but it was printed 200 miles away by Eric Bemrose in Long Lane, Liverpool. The Long Lane plant closed down in 1991. The illustration was by MB Tompkins, an artist about whom I only know that he produced Blighty covers in 1958, and some pulp book covers.

MB Tompkins signature from Blighty magazine cover in 1958

MB Tompkins signature from Blighty magazine cover in 1958


Emma Peel wins the day over Marilyn Monroe

June 9, 2015
Diana Rigg as The Avengers' Mrs Peel on the cover of TV World in 1965

Diana Rigg as The Avengers’ Mrs Peel on the cover of TV World in 1965

Who is the most popular cover star? Joan Collins, Marilyn Monroe? To judge by two recent eBay sales, it’s actually the 27-year-old Diana Rigg – as Emma Peel in The Avengers.

Marilyn Monroe on the cover of Blighty from 1956

Marilyn Monroe on the cover of Blighty from 1956

The evidence is the £147 that a 1965 copy of TV World fetched. There were no less than 18 bids from 4 people. In contrast, a 1956 Blighty with Monroe on the cover brought in a mere £46 (12 bids from 4 people). A copy of the same issue of Blighty fetched £70 on eBay in April.

When it comes to collecting magazines and TV memorabilia though, Mrs Peel and Steed have a long way to go to catch up with Dr Who and the Daleks – a copy of the first Radio Times cover for Dr Who has fetched £509.99.

Emma Peel in one of her leather jumpsuits in a spread from TV World

Emma Peel in one of her leather jumpsuits in a spread from TV World

TV World listed Midlands ITV programmes and this issue covered Saturday December 25 to Friday December 3. Inside there was a double page interview with Rigg – who had found that ‘sudddenly, everybody wants to marry me’ since she featured in the spy series. The seller, Brogan2040, specialises in film and TV.

Other articles covered Noel Gordon and Anthony Morton in Crossroads, a Stars Snakes and Ladders game and an interview with Mark Goddard of Lost in Space. The listings include episodes from The Avengers, Gerry Anderson’s Stingray and Patrick McGoohan as Danger Man.

Nick Buckler, the Blighty seller, also has a July 1957 copy of Fiesta on ebay with a Monroe cover and centre spread.

Monroe brings glamour to Blighty price on eBay

April 6, 2015
1956 copy of Blighty with Marilyn Monroe cover

1956 copy of Blighty with Marilyn Monroe cover

A Marilyn Monroe cover sprinkled some stardust on the price of this 1956 copy of Blighty when it was sold on eBay recently.

Copies of Blighty – which was originally a free magazine for the troops in the First World War and then resurrected for WWII – are usually more likely to fetch £5 than £50, but this issue fetched a whacking £70.88 plus £1.40 postage on eBay. And, there were 31 bids from 6 bidders.

After World War Two, Blighty carried on being published, turning itself into ‘the national humorous weekly’ and then a popular men’s weekly. It later renamed itself Parade and became more explicit, ending up on the top shelf.

A rare colour cover by Arthur Ferrier to help Blighty magazine celebrate VE Day in 1945

A rare colour cover by Arthur Ferrier to help Blighty magazine celebrate VE Day in 1945

The covers were at first whole-page cartoons by the prolific Arthur Ferrier, but mono photographs of young starlets such as Joan Collins or Sabrina replaced these at the end of 1953 and then colour became a regular feature during 1954. Ferrier’s cartoons moved to page 3. One Ferrier cover for Blighty that did well on eBay marked the end of WWII and fetched £48.99 plus £3.99 postage (13 bids by 4 bidders). This was unusual for the time in being colour.

Here is a 1944 British Pathe film of Ferrier drawing a strip for his Sally cartoon in the News of the World based a live model, theatre actress Eileen Bennett.

A contemporary Marilyn Monroe cover will lift the price of most magazines, she being sought after by film and celebrity enthusiasts, and she is an icon for the gay community – an aspect encouraged by Elton John’s ‘Candle in the Wind’.

Blighty for the troops in the Great War

August 22, 2014
'Water Babies' Christmas 1919 issue of Blighty magazine

‘Water Babies’ Christmas 1919 issue of Blighty, a free magazine for Britain’s armed forces

This cover for the Christmas 1919 issue of Blighty magazine looks to have been inspired by Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies, which was already regarded as a classic – and had been published in two editions since the start of the First World War. Like so many books, Kingsley’s was first published as a serial in Macmillan’s Magazine (1862-63).

Among the illustrators for the various editions of the book were Noel Paton (first book edition of 1863), Linley Sambourne (1885), Warwick Goble (1909), W. Heath Robinson (1915) and Jessie Willcox Smith (1916), all of whom were established magazine illustrators. The artwork on the cover here was not credited.

Blighty magazine was an inspired idea and was produced solely for Britain’s fighting forces under the control of the Committee of Blighty from 40 Fleet Street. It was ‘a budget of humour from home’ sent free to the forces with a publishing strategy loosely based on the popular humorous titles of the day such as Punch and London Opinion. Many of their contributors drew or wrote for issues, but the magazine also encouraged contributions from men fighting at the front.

It was funded by advertising along with a special enlarged issue with a colour cover produced for sale at a shilling each Christmas and summer. The 1916 Christmas issue stated: ‘Every copy sold sends three to the trenches.’ This Xmas Home Number came out after the war had ended, of course, and makes no mention of free copies for the troops, because it had been turned into a commercial operation. Though still published from the same Fleet St address, it was now run by The Blighty Publishing and printing had been switched from Walbrook & Co in Whitefriars to George Berridge & Co in Upper Thames St.

The cover design is a straightforward poster style with no cover lines.

A half page at the back of the magazine encourages people to buy a magazine that was ‘favourite reading’ for the armed services. The copy reads:

‘The paper is now on sale to the public. It is full of pictures and stories by the best humorous artists and writers, amongst whom are many men who sent their first contributions from the mud of Flanders, the sands of Mesopotamia, or the stormy waters of the North Sea … It was sent to you in the trenches. Now you can buy it at the shops and bookstalls. All Old Service Readers should be Civilian Readers now.’

Among the illustrators were Punch artist Ricardo Brook, Glossop, Dyke White, US ‘Gibson Girl’ artist C. Dana Gibson, Horace Gaffron (who had fought with the Gordon Highlanders and drew Good Housekeeping covers in the 1930s) and Arthur Ferrier (one of the most popular cartoonists of the 1940s and 50s).

Yet the strategy did not work, and the title closed within a year. However, Blighty was resurrected for the Second World War, again with official support as a free weekly for the troops. When hostilities ended, it was again turned into a men’s humorous weekly, this time successfully. It was rebranded as Parade in 1960 but collapsed as both advertising and readership were lost from all the weeklies to television and Sunday supplements, and became a top-shelf title.