In the Second World War, the second ‘total war’ of the Twentieth Century, death was a daily reality for both those on the fighting fronts and those on the Home Front in Britain. The Ministry of Information (MOI), officially formed at the outbreak of the Second World War, was the central governmental publicity machine, working with other official bodies, including the War Office. Its role was to tell the citizen ‘clearly and swiftly what he is to do, where he is to do it, how he is to do it and what he should not do’.
Posters produced by the MOI needed to deal with the ever-present reality of death: How did governmental bodies deal with the representation of death, ensuring that the seriousness of their message was conveyed, whilst avoiding too “starkly realistic posters” for those who “already knew so much of reality”. What are the moral, religious and other discourses drawn upon and depicted within the posters? Are there clear differences between the images aimed at soldiers, industrial worker and civilians? Was humour ever seen as an appropriate tool in relation to the possibility of death? What were some of the more subtle symbols of death which recurred within wartime posters, particularly within health and “Careless Talk” campaigns?
Dr Bex Lewis is Research Fellow in Social Media and Online Learning for CODEC, University of Durham. She is both a communications historian and a digital practitioner, with a particular interest in mass-popular forms of communication. The focus of her research, which she is currently developing to book form, is upon British propaganda posters. Further information can be found on http://www.ww2poster.co.uk. Her most recent publication was an article for The Poster Journal on ‘The renaissance of Keep Calm and Carry On’. She has also featured in a range of press coverage, and published with both London Transport Museum and The National Archives.
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.