The WW1 cartoonists featured in the collection at Radley College

The collection contains some rare examples of cartoon books from WW1:

Will Dyson

Bruce Bairnsfather

Old Bill is a fictional character created in 1914-15 by cartoonist Bruce Bairnsfather. Old Bill was depicted as an elderly, pipe-smoking British “tommy” with a walrus moustache. The character achieved a great deal of popularity during World War I where it was considered a major morale booster for the British troops. Old Bill and his younger troopmate little Alphie were private infantrymen in the British Expeditionary Force.

Louis Raemaekers

“The cartoons of Louis Raemaekers constitute the most powerful of the honorable contributions made by neutrals to the cause of civilization in the World War.” -Theodore Roosevelt, 1917

Louis Raemaekers was born in the Netherlands in 1869. He led a quiet life, painting landscapes while studying and teaching in Amsterdam and Brussels. In 1906 he was asked by a newspaper in Amsterdam, Het Handelsblad, to produce a series of cartoons. His initial attempt at a comic strip was a complete failure, so he turned to politics.

Raemaekers’ interest in international affairs led him to speak out about German ambitions for expanding their territory into Holland and the Allsace region of France. This got him into trouble with the editors of Het Handelsblad. The Netherlands was neutral and Germanic aggression was a hot issue, so they started cutting back on the number of cartoons by Raemaekers in their pages. When a rival paper, De Telegraaf offered him more editorial freedom and as much space as he could fill, he jumped at the chance.

At the beginning of the First World War, Germany invaded Belgium. The Netherlands was neutral, so refugees streamed across the border. With them, they carried stories of German atrocities against the Belgian people. Raemaekers secretly crossed the border into Belgium to see for himself if the stories were true and returned outraged at what he had witnessed. He began to produce fiercely Anti-German political cartoons that burned with the passion of personal conviction.

“I was in prison for life, but they found I had many abilities for bringing civilization to our neighbours, so now I am a soldier.”

The Massacre of the Innocents in Belgium
“All in good order. Men to the right, women to the left.”

Raemaekers’ cartoons were picked up for distribution by the British government in a series of propaganda pamphlets. The campaign was so effective, the Germans used their influence in the Netherlands to have Raemaekers tried for “endangering Dutch neutrality”. The charges were eventually dropped, but Kaiser Wilhelm II put a bounty of 12,000 marks on his head. When his wife began to receive anonymous threats, Raemaekers realized that his family was in great danger. He relocated to England, where his cartoons were celebrated in books and museum exhibitions, and syndicated to newspapers across France, Canada and the United States.

The harvest ripe. August 1914

The Future- “For freedom’s battle once begun,
though baffled oft, is ever won.” 1918

Raemaekers cartoons were instrumental in fighting against deeply entrenched American isolationism, and in 1917 the United States entered the war. Raemaekers quickly organized a lecture tour of the US and Canada, rallying the allies to support the French and mobilize against the Germans. The Christian Science Monitor said of Raemaekers, “From the outset his works revealed something more than the humorous or ironical power of the caricaturist; they showed that behind the mere pictorial comment on the war was a man who thought and wrought with a deep and uncompromising conviction as to right and wrong.”
After the war, Raemaekers withdrew from international affairs, spending the last 25 years of his life quietly in France and Brussels. By the time he passed away in 1956, the world had pretty much forgotten him. But in his obituary, the New York Times summed up his career, saying, “It has been said of Raemaekers that he was the one private individual who exercised a real and great influence on the course of the 1914-18 War. There were a dozen or so people (emperors, kings, statesmen, and commanders-in-chief) who obviously, and notoriously, shaped policies and guided events. Outside that circle of the great, Louis Raemaekers stands conspicuous as the one man who, without any assistance of title or office, indubitably swayed the destinies of peoples.” His work has been looked down upon with scorn by certain revisionist historians who argue that some of the more extreme atrocities depicted in Raemaekers’ cartoons never took place. It is always difficult in wartime to know what is happening behind enemy lines. Although Raemakers made several clandestine research trips to Belgium during the war, he also depended on second hand accounts, some of which have since been proven to be untrue. But no one denies that Raemaekers himself believed his cartoons to be completely factual.

Bert Thomas

Bert Thomas joined Punch in 1905 and contributed until 1935. During the First World War he was in the Artist Rifles. Thomas’ political cartoons started to be included in gallery exhibitions as artistic caricatures as early as 1913, in an exhibition on the Strand by the Society of Humorous Art. Bert Thomas also drew the famous First World War cartoon of a grinning soldier lighting a pipe with the caption “’Arf a mo’ Kaiser!”. The cartoon appeared in the Weekly Dispatch in aid of the paper’s tobacco-for-troops fund which raised around £250,000. This cartoon stayed with Thomas for the rest of his life. In 1936 his illustrations for a series of readers’ letters in the Evening News were labeled “Half a mo’ stories” and in the Second World War the cartoon reappeared with the caption “Half a mo’ Hitler”.

Later in the conflict, Thomas became an official war artist for the National Savings Campaign. In 1918, he drew Britain’s largest war poster which carried an appeal to invest in War Bonds. It covered the front of the National Gallery and was seventy-five feet long. In June 1918, Bert Thomas was awarded the MBE for his war work.


Cyril Kenneth Bird, pen name Fougasse was a British cartoonist best known for his editorship of Punch magazine and his World War II warning propaganda posters. He also designed many posters for the London Underground.

The son of Arthur Bird, a company director, he was educated at Cheltenham College and King’s College London. While at King’s College he attended evening art classes at the Regent Street Polytechnic and at the School of Photo-Engraving in Bolt Court.

He was seriously injured at the Battle of Gallipoli during and invalided out of the British Army (his pen name is based on the Fougasse, a type of mine). He first contributed to Punch in 1916, while convalescing, and also contributed to several other British newspapers and magazines, including The Graphic and Tatler.

Will Dyson

Will Dyson was an Australian illustrator and political cartoonist. Dyson covered the war for the Australian GovernmentAustralian newspapers, and he produced what are some of the finest war-time cartoons ever.

Wine of victory (German prisoners captured at Ypres)

One of the old platoon

Following the war, back at the Herald, Dyson produced one of the most prophetic cartoons imaginable, and likely his most famous cartoon (it certainly gained a lot more attention in 1939), when he drew the following cartoon where he sneers at the Treaty of Versailles… The cartoon depicts Woodrow Wilson, Lloyd George and Orlando of Italy leaving the Versailles peace treaty meeting with Clemenceau who is saying, ‘Curious! I seem to hear a child weeping!’-the weeping child in the cartoon was labelled ’1940 class’. Here, Dyson is suggesting that the effects of the Treaty of Versailles were going to start another war in 1940 – he was off by a few months.

This cartoon depicted something Dyson saw with his own eyes – a man carving a cross for a dead friend

The Versailles Treaty and the child of 1940

Research by John Higgs