This week, we wear poppies in remembrance of all those who gave their lives in battle. In this poignant time, we at Squeezed Media would like to take a moment to commemorate the work of the prominent wartime cartoonist, Bruce Bairnsfather (9 July 1887 – 29 September 1959).
Born in Murree in India in 1873 to an Army family, Bairnsfather wasn’t a stellar student – he was more interested in drawing caricatures of his masters than in passing his exams. After a stint in the Militia, he briefly studied at commercial art school before re-enlisting with the Royal Warwickshires when war broke out in 1914. It was during this time that Bairnsfather’s cartoons began to gain an audience. His weekly ‘Fragments from France’ cartoons were published weekly in The Bystander magazine throughout WWI.
We got in touch with Bairnsfather’s official biographers, Valmai and Tonie Holt, who said they view the cartoons as Bairnsfather’s way of making the horrendous conditions of war at the front accessible to the families back home.
You see, Bairnsfather’s work wasn’t afraid of showing the cold, wet, and dangerous reality of war, yet he managed to do so in such a humorous and understanding way that he was able to even raise the morale of the men at the front. He depicted the troops as scruffy, grumbling, and skiving, yet also celebrated their indomitable spirit and ability to see the amusing side of all their tribulations.
Despite recognition from the Secret Service and the title of first ever ‘Officer Cartoonist’, Bairnsfather never received the recognition he so thoroughly deserved from the government. His work did more for morale at home and abroad than that of any other artist but because he was a ‘cartoonist’, he was not valued in the same way and received no official award.
So, 57 years after his death, here’s to Officer Cartoonist, Bruce Bairnsfather.