Don’t waste coal and other exhortations!

1,000 Bomber Raid!

This image and the one below are selections from the The National Archives' collaboration with Wikimedia Commons, so far comprising 350 examples of war art from the Second World War. These particular ones are propaganda posters (or draft versions of same) but there are also more informational ones as well as portraits and caricatures of Allied leaders.

The Downfall of the Dictators is Assured

Both depict specific raids: the 1,000 bomber raid on Cologne on the night of 30 May 1942 in the previous example (admittedly, it could be one of the later 1,000 bomber raids, but the use of the singular and the presence of the Whitley suggests it was the first one) and, in this case, the 17 October 1942 low-level daylight raid against the Schneider armaments factory at Le Creusot in France. While the ostensible purpose is not to laud the achievements of Bomber Command but to promote some other message (be frugal! we will win!) clearly the image is one the Air Ministry would be happy with. Both portray the raids as precise -- as usual -- but even the Le Creusot raid hit workers' houses.

Licht dein Tod!

By way of contrast, here are two propaganda posters from the Axis point of view. Both come from a vast poster collection at the Nanyang Technical University at Singapore, Utopian Constructions, which spans the world and a couple of centuries. (Thanks to JDK for pointing this out.) This one is from Germany and aims to persuade people to obey the black regulations as 'Light means your death!' Oddly, the four-engined bomber silhouetted against the night sky has stars in its roundels. So it's either American -- who very rarely did strategic bombing at night -- or Soviet -- who very rarely did strategic bombing. Why either of those would be chosen over the British, who were routinely called 'night pirates' and the like by Nazi propagandists, is hard to explain.

This one, from Italy, also shows an American bomber (let's be generous and call it a B-17) but this time it's during the day so that's okay. It refers to a specific USAAF air raid on Milan (note the cathedral in the background) on 20 October 1944 which killed 184 schoolchildren. It's certainly something to be horrified about, but Mussolini and the Salò Republic didn't have much credit by that point.

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8 thoughts on “Don’t waste coal and other exhortations!

  1. Heather

    They’re not Whitleys, they’re Halifaxes. The number of engines give it away. I think the wing root angle is artistic licence that makes the nearer aircraft look like a Whitley, but even then the tailplane is all wrong for the type – and right for the early marks of Halifax.

  2. Interesting spot, Heather. I’m pretty OK on aircraft recognition, having been playing it for ten times longer than most got to in the real war. When I read Brett’s mention of a Whitley in his text, I looked at the illustration again and at a glance thought the example in the middle right (sans tail) was the Whitley Brett was referring to. After your post I checked again and counted the engines, and yes, they’re all sort-of Halifaxes, though the one example I referred to is very Whitley-like except for the suggested four engines.

    It looks like the artwork of a very popular W.W.II British artist who I was never a fan of myself, with ‘bendy’ and amorphous aircraft. Certainly the Halifax I was looking at a couple of weeks ago didn’t have such a thick Whitley style wing root as you mention, nor the flatter (Whitley style) cockpit to nose-turret rake of the middle example.

    More on topic, the ‘Licht Vien Tod’ example is very similar to a well known example of the skeleton hurling bombs while riding a very identifiable Blenheim. I’ll post it up among the group I was preparing on this very topic on my own blog. Brett beats me to it again!

    What they do (and don’t) say is a fascinating topic all of its own.

    Finally, credit where due, I was pointed to the Nanyang Technical University website by Ricardo Reis, a regular poster here also, and on a much more cheerful topic of those cool 1930s posters anachronistically reminiscent of Porco Rosso.

  3. Post author

    Gah! Yes, I was looking at the one JDK notes and got thrown by the Whitleyesque chin. But I think the four engines (which I didn’t even notice) means the artist was probably intending to portray Halifaxes, as Heather says, regardless of the other infelicities. -1 Spotto points for me.

    The artist responsible was Clive Uptton. It’s rather Commandoish, isn’t it…

  4. Just a comment on the text of the German poster – I think it says ‘LICHT dein TOD!’, which would translate as ‘light – your death!’ The ‘dein’ is in one of those faintly archaic German scripts* which were related to blackletter, which is presumably used for emphasis – in a British poster you’d expect to see italic.

    *well, sort of – they were starting to be abandoned by the 1940s.

    (end typeface nerdery)

  5. Thanks Jakob. I don’t speak German, but some time ago Mrs JDK translated it as you’ve just also done, which makes sense. Naturally I failed to carefully write out the original German words properly.

    I think at this point Brett and I will probably cease trying, collapsing a whole correction industry that’s just becoming viable. ~hem~

    Uptton clearly had a long and distinguished career as a children’s and propaganda illustrator (there’s a small, often imperceptible difference) as well as a newspaper illustrator and was obviously pretty good at it, though his aircraft remained a bit wonky until the 1980s, according to a link from his bio to Look & Learn illustrations. However it wasn’t him I was thinking of, but Frank Wootton, a more specialist aircraft illustrator, with a very similar style (and in my uncharitable view, equally bendy aircraft).

    Some Commando illustrators were very good – a couple I remain a firm fan of. While others – well…

  6. Post author

    On the Italian poster, I happen to be reading Claudia Baldoli and Andrew Knapp’s Forgotten Blitzes: France and Italy Under Allied Air Attack, 1940-1945 at the moment (which is excellent) and they do discuss Italian propaganda about Allied bombing. Early in the war it was completely ignored; in the last years before Mussolini’s fall the attitude was one of insouciance and bravado; and it was only in the Salò period that images like this, portraying the Allies as gangsters and murderers, started appearing, essentially because hate was the only rhetorical weapon left.

    Jakob:

    That explains it — I thought it must have been ‘dein’ but it didn’t look like a d. Silly Germans, can’t even write their own language properly.

    JDK:

    Speak for yourself, I’ve got many more mistakes to make!

  7. Wooton’s bendiness seems to have been a stylistic choice, as he was an excellent draughtsman – I’ve got one of his ‘How to Draw Aircraft’ books from the 1950s, and his pencil and ink drawings are delightful. Like JDK, I’m not a huge fan of his paintings, as they’re a bit impressionistic for my tastes.

    For those interested in aviation art, the annual Guild of Aviation Artists exhibition is on at the Mall Galleries in London this week (16-22nd Jul) – get there before the Olympic mayhem kicks off…

  8. Post author

    For those interested in aviation art, the annual Guild of Aviation Artists exhibition is on at the Mall Galleries in London this week (16-22nd Jul) – get there before the Olympic mayhem kicks off…

    Or you can avoid London altogether and look at them online!

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