King's College London
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The Cartoon in Wartime Propaganda

World War Two

A 'V for Victory' cartoonA 'V for Victory' cartoonOne of the most celebrated attempts to raise morale in occupied countries during World War Two was the 'V for Victory' campaign, which was launched by Winston Churchill in July 1941 and drew on a BBC campaign that supported passive resistance in occupied Europe.

The success of the campaign was based on its simplicity - civilians were quickly able to daub the 'V' sign on pavements or walls without risking getting caught while in many languages the word for 'victory' also begins with the letter 'v'.

'Roof over Britain' book cover, 1939-1942'Roof over Britain' book cover, 1939-1942Spelt out in Morse code, the letter also forms the opening bar of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, which was used in BBC overseas broadcasts to further strengthen the message of resistance.

Cartoonists were also quick to draw on the symbol, not least in the Ministry of Information where Edwin Embleton produced a series of humorous pamphlets to exploit the phenomenon.

Booklet on RAF successes to stiffen moraleBooklet on RAF successes to stiffen moraleOther Embleton cartoons were among thousands designed by the Ministry of Information to rally civilians on the Home Front, stressing the heroic work of men and women in the firing line, including air raid wardens, or depicting British stoicism in the face of the threat of invasion by Hitler's Germany.

Other cartoons stiffened morale by exposing the vulnerability of the enemy to attack and stressing the reach and capability of Britain's armed forces, in particularly the RAF upon which the country depended to inflict damage upon Germany's heartlands.

This was particularly important in the early stages of the war when, following the fall of France, Britain found itself especially isolated.

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