The First World War cartoons of W.K. Haselden
During the First World war the Daily Mirror was the largest-selling morning paper in Britain, and one of its most popular features were the daily cartoons of William Kerridge Haselden. Haselden was a self-taught cartoonist, who joined the Daily Mirror in December 1903, soon after its launch, at the age of thirty. At first he drew traditional single-frame political cartoons, but after the Daily Mirror dropped its price and went for a mass circulation he changed his style, opting instead for light social comment and a multi-frame style. This proved enormously popular, and from 1907 onwards the annual volumes of his cartoons had a large sale.
During the First World War W.K. Haselden drew thousands of daily cartoons, charting the progress of a country at war. He did produce some political cartoons, and his caricatures of the German Kaiser and Crown Prince as "Big Willie" and "Little Willie" became very famous. However, he was best at drawing what he called the "little passing topics of the day", and his depictions of daily civilian life in wartime now hold more interest than his set-piece political cartoons.
An overview of all records in the group with annotations (where entered).
Showing records 1 to 12 of 32.
On 29 July 1914 the British government instituted the "Precautionary Period", signalling that war was imminent. However, as Haselden's cartoon shows, for many people the first thoughts of war in Europe were mixed with fears of civil war in Ireland.
This cartoon appeared the day before Britain declared war on Germany, and shows once again how dreams of a European war were heavily overlaid by nightmares of disorder at home - financial collapse, high bread prices, and violent demonstrations by the unemployed (represented as ragged anarchists with knives).
Before the war the British army had a poor reputation by comparison with the Royal Navy, and was attractive only to the young urban unemployed. But the outbreak of war brought a sudden transformation, and within days, as Haselden's cartoon shows, joining the army was being presented as the patriotic duty of the middle classes.
The outbreak of war brought a resurgence of British patriotism, and a reconsideration of the enemy nations. As this cartoon shows, Germany was quickly demonised, and its whole culture presented as barbaric.
The first of Haselden's "Big and Little Willie" cartoons, which presented the German Kaiser and Crown Prince as childish and unthreatening characters. This series became very popular, and in 1915 it was reprinted in book form as "The Sad Experiences of Big and Little Willie", leading Haselden to be seen as the father of the British newspaper strip cartoon.
This cartoon ridicules the German belief that Britain would be unable to commit itself to the war in Europe, as it would be faced by rebellion in Ireland, India, and Egypt, and by domestic protest from groups such as the suffragettes.
In this cartoon Haselden makes fun of German efforts to fragment the British Empire by offering support to the Boers in South Africa, by showing them as less than enthusiastic about German achievements in the war.
Haselden suggests that all the able-bodied men have gone off to fight, leaving only the less able-bodied to watch sporting events. This is a reference to the prewar criticism that the growth of commercial spectator sports showed the decline of national character, and Haselden's cartoon thus helps to prove that war is a revitalising force.
As men joined the army in great numbers, and munitions production expanded, the number of working women increased. They made a huge contribution to the war effort, but this early wartime cartoon by Haselden concentrates less on their changing role in society, than on the fact that they would be attractively ornamental in jobs traditionally filled by men.
As the war progressed workmen at home were presented as unpatriotic for keeping to peacetime working practices, which could limit munitions production. In March 1915 the government's "Treasury Agreement" paved the way for the relaxation of some trades union restrictive practices, including the opposition to "labour dilution", where some responsibilities of skilled munitions workers were given to the unskilled. In return the trades unions were promised a limitation on employers' wartime profits.
In wartime there was a firm belief that the Germans were determined to invade and conquer Britain - which Haselden depicts as the dome of St. Paul’s cathedral in London transformed into a German helmet. There were no German plans for invasion, but the fear of invasion was an important element in popular feelings about the war.
The demonisation of Germany, and the fear of German invasion, led the British to intern all enemy citizens. As Haselden's cartoon shows, there were also xenophobic fears about "naturalized Germans" - Germans who had settled in Britain and had chosen to adopt British citizenship.