King's College London
Online Exhibitions
The Cartoon in Wartime Propaganda

1939 - 1945

Minute for Murderby Nicholas Blake [Cecil Day-Lewis]Minute for Murderby Nicholas Blake [Cecil Day-Lewis]Hitler's Germany, Mussolini's Italy and the Soviet Union during the 1930s, all understood the power of propaganda and its role in the successful prosecution of total war.

The creation of the British Ministry of Information in 1939 was also recognition that a systematic and coordinated home propaganda campaign was vital, particularly with the prospect of air raids and in the face of Britain's isolation with the fall of France in 1940.

A sketch of Edwin EmbletonA sketch of Edwin EmbletonLocated in the Senate House building of the University of London, its output was prodigious, not least that of the General Production Division, headed by Studio Manager, Edwin Embleton. Graphic propaganda for domestic and worldwide audiences and in dozens of languages was created at very short notice - sometimes even in a matter of days.

Photo-magazines, postcards and public information booklets were carefully targeted to appeal to different interest groups in each country - trade unionists, the devoutly religious, intellectuals - thought to be especially hostile to Nazism and receptive to Allied propaganda.

The Ministry attracted press and other political criticism, however, some of which was addressed with a reorganisation under the leadership of the new Minister of Information, Brendan Bracken, from July 1941.

The Special Operations Executive, set up by Prime Minister, Winston Churchill in July 1940, with the promise to 'set Europe ablaze', lead covert warfare against Nazi Germany in occupied territories. Its work included espionage, surveillance and sabotage and propaganda aimed at encouraging passive resistance and undermining the morale of German soldiers and their allies.

From 1941, its propaganda department (SO1) was incorporated in the new Political Warfare Executive under Bruce Lockhart and based at Woburn Abbey and Electra House on London's Embankment. Known colloquially as the 'Peewees', more than 450 soldiers, civil servants, university dons and journalists worked there in secret to produce content for clandestine radio stations broadcasting to occupied territories, leaflets or even whole newspapers designed to deceive the enemy and spread misinformation through whispers or 'sibs'.

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