Osbert Lancaster: From Daily Express Cartoonist to World War Two Propagandist

Political Warfare Executive

Visual cartoons and caricature can translate easily across cultures – more so than the written word often can. This is one reason why, during the Second World War, British cartoonists were recruited to create comic propaganda to be dropped into occupied countries. Dr Guy Woodward of our Political Warfare Executive project looks at the work of one especially prominent cartoonist, Osbert Lancaster.

In his most recent blog post, Guy walks us through a small booklet found in the National Archives, entitled Moffes-Spiegel. It is a collection of cartoons drawn by Osbert Lancaster for the Daily Express, the newspaper for which he worked until his retirement in 1981. Between 1942 and 1943, 66,100 copies of the booklet were dropped over the Netherlands by the RAF. Among other things, the cartoons depict the Nazis as gluttonous and deceitful:

The cartoon on the left page above shows two men tucking into a feast, with the caption ‘Just think, dear colleague, of all those poor French children starving because of the brutal British blockade.’ The cartoon facing this attacks the Supreme Commander of the Luftwaffe Hermann Göring, whose obese form and famed vanity made him a popular target of British wartime satire. Under the heading ‘The Fattest of Teutons’, we see Göring in full Highland dress, as Hitler admonishes him: ‘But, Hermann, I told you distinctly that we are not liberating Scotland until 1941.’ Other cartoons seek to emphasise the brutality and deceitful nature of German military campaigns – under the ironic heading ‘Blitzkrieg’ we see a Luftwaffe bomber firing on a pram at close range as one airman says to another ‘Well, we can always say we thought it was a tank’.

In the full blog post, Guy explains how these cartoons drew on Lancaster’s own first-hand experience of Nazi Germany, and how he came to turn his talents from cartoonist in a national newspaper, to being professionally and personally connected with the Political Warfare Executive, the specialist unit setup to disseminate propaganda with the aim of demoralising the enemy and bolstering allied morale. Read the rest over at the Political Warfare Executive project.

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