A questionnaire was circulated in 1997 and 1998, using responses from newspaper appeals and personal contacts. There are some quotes that were particularly interesting, and some of them are highlighted here.
Male Respondent: ‘The one that seems very funny to me now but not at the time was VD Kills. In those days such a thing was never mentioned such was the ignorance, but it must have been a very big problem as this was the largest poster of the lot. When you asked about it, a look of horror would come over the person’s face and you would get no explanation. Then one of the schoolboys got the full facts from a soldier at the nearby camp. “You went deaf, and blind and your nose fell off” and you caught this affliction by talking to girls. Needless to say after that you only spoke to boys. I remember averting my eyes every time I passed that poster.’
? Respondent: “At the risk of being labelled conceited I would say that thanks to a decent education and being employed in a Government establishment (and with at least a modicum of common-sense) I did not need the messages of the posters. Perhaps this is why I don’t remember them very well.”
Male Respondent: ‘I remember it chiefly as the Ministry of Mis-Information.’
Male ex-soldier: Rremembered referring throughout the war to ‘the ‘Ministry of Misinformation’ as the ‘Ministry of Lies’!’, although ‘some years after the conflict ended … I came to feel that the latter description was, maybe, ‘over the top’!
? Respondent: Appeals to ‘save water’, ‘5’ only in the bath’ and ‘don’t waste water’ were regarded as particularly unnecessary to one of the respondees to the questionnaire, who lived near a Scottish loch with an inexhaustible water supply.
? Respondent: ‘I have clear memories of my first encounter with W.W.II propaganda when, as a 13 year old schoolboy in September 1939, my home town … blossomed with crimson posters proclaiming that:-
Will bring us Victory!’
For some reason, these posters were much maligned, possibly because of the association with cheerfulness with courage and resolution! With hindsight, one could argue that the originator had, in fact, identified the three typically British qualities which were to see us through the Battle of Britain and the Blitz.’
? Respondent: ‘Being a child I was obviously impressionable but I remember feeling motivated sufficiently to talk to my parents about these posters and found that they were positively motivated by many of the posters.’
Irish Male: ‘there were not any propaganda ones [posters] by the British. All of the posters issued by the allied forces were true advice posters warning everybody of the Dangers [sic] that lay ahead. All propaganda came from Nazi Germany but thank God it was never believed by all true British subjects. … and propaganda was not advisable as it costs lives.’
Male Historian: ‘Despite modern attempts at “de-bunking”, wartime spirits were mostly high. Certainly, we did not walk about with permanent smiles, in addition to the usual horrors of war … times were hard, and there were invasion fears, bombs, V-1s and V-2s. However, there was never any thought of surrendering…: we always thought we’d win the war; and posters – like other official forms of propaganda – played an important part in keeping-up morale’.
Mass Communications Academic, @MMUBS. British Home Front Propaganda posters as researched for a PhD completed 2004. In 1997, unwittingly wrote the first history of the Keep Calm and Carry On poster, which she now follows with interest.