Posts Tagged ‘world war one’

A typeface for the Magna Carta

May 7, 2015
Detail from the Magna Carta embroidery at the British Library by Cornelia Parker

Detail from the Magna Carta embroidery at the British Library by Cornelia Parker

The British Library is running events to celebrate 800 years of one of the most famous documents in the world, the Magna Carta. Material to support the events includes commissioned articles by experts, videos and animations, teaching resources for schools – and an embroidery by Cornelia Parker at the library’s main site between London’s Euston and King’s Cross stations.

Front page from Votes for Women, the newspaper of the Women’s Social and Political Union, in 1911

Front page from Votes for Women, the newspaper of the Women’s Social and Political Union, in 1911

One of the exhibits is this front page from Votes for Women, the newspaper of the Women’s Social and Political Union, which was started by Emmeline Pankhurst, in 1911. The WSPU was one of the main campaign groups for women’s suffrage. The BL website explains:

By claiming Magna Carta to be the product of aggression, both the artist Alfred Pearse (1855-1933; under the pseudonym ‘A Patriot’) and essayist Joseph Clayton legitimised the suffragettes’ use of direct action. The front page image of King John was pasted into this scrapbook owned by the suffragette, Maud Arncliffe Sennett (1862-1936). 11 months later, Sennett herself was prosecuted for breaking the windows of the offices of the Daily Mail, because the newspaper had failed to report the holding of a WSPU rally.

The suffrage movement pulled in its horns for the most part four years later and women played a vital role in the Great War, both on the Western Front – in some cases deceiving the authorities so they could tend the wounded close to the font lines – and at home, whether in munitions factories, on the land or as bus conductors. Pankhurst’s determination was noted in a 1915 postcard. It showed an officer telling Lord Kitchener, the secretary for war:

‘My Lord, it is reported that the Germans are going to disembark at Dover!’
Kitchener replies:
‘Very Well! Phone Mrs Pankhurst to go there with some suffragettes, and that will do!’

Afterwards, some women were granted the vote. It took another 10 years for all women to get the vote, however.

Women at War – as portrayed in magazines of the day

Paxman resurrects a Kitchener mystery

December 1, 2014
The mystery of Kitchener's death from a 1933 article in Pictorial Weekly

‘Was Kitchener’s body found?’ – one of the mysteries surrounding Kitchener’s death from a 1933 article in Pictorial Weekly

Jeremy Paxman has started writing for the Financial Times and kicked off with ‘The strange death of Lord Kitchener‘ in the FT Magazine. The standfirst reads:

The British war secretary’s demise at sea in June 1916 has spawned endless conspiracy theories. A century on, can the speculation be laid to rest?

The article summarises the machinations that have surrounded Kitchener of Khartoum and his death, lost at sea in the sinking of HMS Hampshire in 1916, not long after the cruiser had left Scapa Flow on its way to Russia. Unfortunately, after a few thousand words of well-turned prose, the novelty of the piece rests on the contents of some files Paxman had sought out with a Freedom of Information order. The result: ‘The files are as dull as ditch water.’

As the magazine pages here show, the loss of ‘K of K’ was ‘the greatest mystery of the age’ back in 1933. The Pictorial Weekly article shown here was built around the 1926 claim by a journalist, Frank Power (real name Arthur Vectis Freeman), who claimed he had found the Khartoum hero’s body washed up on the coast of Norway. The incident is a core part of Paxman’s piece too.

Right-hand page of Pictorial Weekly article

Right-hand page of Pictorial Weekly article

Of course, Paxman has been the face of the BBC’s coverage of the 100th anniversary of the start of the first world war, and stepped into Kitchener’s shoes in the famous ‘Your Country Needs You’ London Opinion magazine cover and poster for the Radio Times in January.

Jeremy Paxman as Lord Kitchener for the Radio Times

Jeremy Paxman as Lord Kitchener for the Radio Times

 

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.

 

Ravages of War in Kaiser Wilhelm’s face

July 15, 2014
Germany’s leader, Kaiser Wilhelm - The Ravager

Germany’s leader, Kaiser Wilhelm, with his moustache and military uniform, at the start of World War I. He is described as ‘The Ravager’

This postcard depicts Germany’s leader, Kaiser Wilhelm, with his flamboyant moustache and military uniform, at the start of World War I. He is described as ‘The Ravager’ and there appears to be a tear falling from the right eye. It is when the card is turned upside down that ‘The Ravages of War’ he was responsible for are made clear.

The postcard turned upside down reveals the 'Ravages of War'

The upside-down face reveals the ‘Ravages of War’ with the moustache becoming an imperial eagle

In the upside-down face, his nose and moustache become an eagle with a crown above its head – the German imperial symbol – atop a marble column. The falling tear has become a lion – a symbol for Britain – which is trying to climb the column to reach the eagle. And the lower eyelashes now spell out the names of the first Belgian cities that fell to the Germans – Liège and Namur.

The eyelashes spell out  Liège and Namur

The eyelashes spell out the names of the first Belgian cities that fell to the Germans – Liège and Namur

Both cities had been ringed with forts by 1892 and the Battle for Liège was the first engagement of the war. It began on 5 August 1914 and lasted until 16 August when the last fort surrendered. The attack on Belgium drew the British into the war. German troops then turned their attention to the forts around Namur on 20 August, bombarding them with heavy artillery, including the massive Big Bertha (a 420mm siege howitzer). Belgian forces withdrew and the city was evacuated and left to the attackers on 23 August. Magazines at the time such Punch referred to the Belgiums as steadfast in standing up to the Germans but ultimately being flattened by its might – ‘plucky little Belgium‘.

So the card was probably produced in the autumn of 1914. Like Alfred Leete’s famous Your Country Needs You cover from London Opinion, it was a visceral reaction to the war.

Turning back to the card, the detail on the Kaiser’s tunic portrays Belgian troops in front of a church facing cannon fire. One side of the collar depicts a German soldier bayoneting a mother in front of her child. The other side shows a line of troops firing on a fleeing family. The chinstrap depicts three lions.

The helmet shows two French armies with a smaller British force. The helmet’s ‘dome’ turns into howitzers firing at a dove that is falling from the sky, with an explosion to one side and a burning house on the other.

Deatail of moustache as imperial eagle

The upside-down nose and moustache become a German imperial eagle on a column, which a British lion is trying to climb. Part of the helmet shows British and French troops

The card was issued as part of the ‘Dainty’ series (possibly from Britain’s first mass-producer of postcards, E.T.W. Dennis) and has an unclear signature at the bottom right: possibly Victor Edmunds Pickup.

Postcard was issued as part of the ‘Dainty’ series (probably from Britain’s first mass-producer of postcards, E.T.W. Dennis) and has an unclear signature at the bottom right: possibly Victor Edmunds Pickup

Postcard was issued as part of the ‘Dainty’ series (possibly from Britain’s first big postcard printer, E.T.W. Dennis) and has a signature at the bottom right: possibly Victor Edmunds Pickup

Most British magazines and postcards did not show out-and-out brutality, instead hinting at illegal actions with slogans such as ‘Remember Belgium’ but French magazines certainly did.

Back of the Kaiser Ravages of War postcard with the 'Dainty series' label

Back of the Kaiser Ravages of War postcard with the ‘Dainty’ series label on the left

Heroines of the Western Front

November 17, 2013
Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm on the cover of Home Chat in 1918.

Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm on the cover of Home Chat in 1918 wearing one of the many medals they were awarded. The ‘heroines’ or ‘Madonnas’ of Pervyse were world famous

Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm were volunteer nurses who worked on the front line in Flanders with Belgian troops for most of the First World War – the only women working on the Western Front. Though their hospital was against British regulations, they carried on regardless, were lauded by the press and dubbed the ‘heroines of Pervyse’, hence their place on the cover of Home Chat, the best-selling women’s weekly of the time. Chisholm was just 18 when she volunteered with her motorcycling friend for the Flying Ambulance Corps. Once in Flanders, they set up their own, unofficial, first-aid station in the cellar of a collapsed house in the village of Pervyse. Their dug-out so close to the front was against regulations, but they carried on regardless, were lauded by the press and dubbed the ‘heroines of Pervyse’.

Knocker and Chisholm broke the rules to do their job, as did other pioneering women such as Edith Cavell, a nurse who was executed, and Flora Sandes – the only British woman soldier of WWI.

In 1915, Knocker and Chisholm were decorated twice by the Belgians. They were credited with saving thousands of lives and, as the only women working on the Western Front, were ‘les madones de Pervyse’ to the troops (the ‘madonnas’ nickname came from a shrine over the entrance to their dug-out). They toured Britain to raise funds for supplies and an ambulance.  The tragedy of their relationship was that … Read more

Magazines at war

Women in the First World War

London Opinion magazine and the Kitchener poster