During the First World War, numerous WWI cartoons were illustrated for the purpose of lightening soldiers’ spirits and helping them to continue fighting with less worry of becoming too fatigued. While a great deal of these illustrations were created during the war, comparatively few of them have survived through today. Luckily, as with most war-related memorabilia, there are collectors who have ensured the continued survival of these WWI cartoons, many of which are now for sale.
Many of these illustrations can be identified by their very subject matter, which is often militaristic in nature. Since it was usually troopers of lower rank that needed the biggest boost in morale, they are often the ones portrayed as heroes by these illustrations. Many of these highly rare WWI cartoons lampoon the officers that were in charge of these men, causing more common soldiers to appear even more heroic when juxtaposed with buffoonish commanding officers. These comic illustrations also satirically portray many common issues which arose during the war, such as the replacement of old military technologies with newer ones.
The illustrations currently up for sale were created by Bruce Bairnsfather. As a veteran of the Second Battle of Ypres, he had firsthand experience with the issues facing other troops. He drew his popular WWI cartoons while on the mend following the battle, and he eventually had them included in a publication called The Bystander. He primarily dealt with a specific character of his own creation, who he named Old Bill. Old Bill represented both the trials and desired triumphs of the British troops during the war, the Mail Online reports.
The end of the First World War was not the end of Bairnsfather’s career as an illustrator. His illustrations were so effective in raising the spirits of Allied troop members that in the Second World War, he was asked to continue the work he’d begun with his WWI cartoons under an official capacity. It became clear from his work that putting the troops in a good humor was beneficial to their effectiveness as an army.
Bairnsfather’sWWI cartoons are expected to yield a decent amount of money at auction. Some of these are collected in editions that were meant for limited release, and are even rarer now than when they were created. The sheer existence of these special editions is a sign of just how valued these WWI cartoons were at the time of their creation, even before they had become rare and historic memorabilia.