‘Women of Britain – Come into the Factories’, a Soviet-style image urging women to work in wartime factories

Richard Maddox

WOMEN OF BRITAIN - COME INTO THE FACTORIES. Copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference PST 3645. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/38928.

WOMEN OF BRITAIN – COME INTO THE FACTORIES. Copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference PST 3645. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/38928.

THE IMAGE ABOVE WAS DESIGNED by Philip Zec, the fourth of eleven children born to Russian émigré tailor Simon Zecanovsky and his wife Leah. Philip’s grandfather – a Rabbi – had fled to England to escape Tsarist persecution.

After training at St. Martin’s School of Art Philip worked as a commercial artist. In 1939 his work took a new direction when he became the political cartoonist of the Daily Mirror newspaper where he was tasked with producing a cartoon a day.

Given complete artistic freedom he produced his finished artwork by 1 pm and it appeared in the first edition of the next days paper which was distributed at 6 pm. (1)

That autonomy was to lead him to produce two of his most famous cartoons –  the controversial ‘The price of petrol has been increased by one penny. Official.’ (1942) and ‘Here you are! Don’t lose it again.’ (1945).

But before that  he was commissioned by the Ministry of Information  to produce what was to become – along with his ‘Price of Petrol‘ and ‘Don’t lose it again‘ cartoons – one of his most famous images. (2)

Women of Britain – Come into the Factories‘ was published in 1941 and has an undeniably romantic view of Soviet women factory workers. Operation Barbarrosa (the German invasion of the Soviet Union) had started in June 1941. And there was much support for the people of the new member of the Allied powers.

The poster features a woman in plain work overalls, and a simple headscarf facing towards an unseen enemy, with a trail of aircraft flying across a dawn sky in a curving path from behind her through her out-stretched arms, which are arranged in a loose ‘v’ perhaps symbolising ‘victory’

On the left of the image the aircraft fly over a simple brick-built factory while on the right two tanks emerge.

The style of the poster is in the seemingly simple and ‘pared down’ highly graphic style of the time often seen in railway travel posters. (3)

Historian and author Dr. Brett Holman who writes the Airminded blog (4) has noticed an interesting detail in the ‘Women of Britain‘ poster.

All but one of the highly-stylised aircraft have a single fin and what appears to be two radial engines.

The ‘Odd Plane Out’ – as he describes the different aircraft – has a twin-fin configuration.

Readers of his blog have suggested a number of candidates that could have influenced the aircraft shapes including a possible Soviet design. (5)

Sources

(1) https://www.cartoons.ac.uk/cartoonist-biographies/y-z/PhilipZec.html – retrieved 30 November 2019

(2) https://sites.psu.edu/rcellis/2016/10/04/a-political-cartoon-is-like-an-onion/ – retrieved 30 November 2019

(3) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tees-32495451
– retrieved 30 November 2019

(4) https://airminded.org/about/– retrieved 30 November 2019

(5) https://airminded.org/2009/12/29/odd-plane-out/comment-page-1/#comment-590965 – retrieved 30 November 2019

Austerity fashion 1943 style and the building that inspired 1984’s ‘Ministry of Truth’

Richard Maddox

A WOMAN MODELS a green and mauve dress (which cost 7 clothing coupons), designed by Norman Hartnell. The model is standing on a windy rooftop in Bloomsbury, London. Senate House, the headquarters of the Ministry of Information, is clearly visible in the left of the frame. Image Copyright: © IWM. IWM catalogue reference D 14820. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205192912.

A WOMAN MODELS a green and mauve dress (which cost 7 clothing coupons), designed by Norman Hartnell. The model is standing on a windy rooftop in Bloomsbury, London. Senate House, the headquarters of the Ministry of Information, is clearly visible in the left of the frame. Image Copyright: © IWM. IWM catalogue reference D 14820. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205192912.

IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE that the photograph was taken in the middle of the Second World War.

And it’s hard to think that the woman in the printed dress was modelling a new design by British fashion designer Norman Hartnett.

Norman (later Sir Norman) Hartnell created innovative fashion designs during the 1920s and for the next fifty years.

His clients ranged from the British Royal Family – including the Coronation Dress worn by Queen Elizabeth -to ordinary British women. (1)

Senate House – part of the University of London – was the British capital’s first skyscraper and dates from the late 1930s. (2)

It was the home of the Ministry of Information from Britain’s entry into the Second World War until the department was disbanded in 1946. During that time it was responsible for many images designed to boost morale as well as for censoring material. (3)

It is said that Eric Blair – better known as author George Orwell – based the Minstry of Truth in his novel ‘1984’ on Senate House and the work carried out within.

In the book the central character Winston Smith works as a minor civil servant revising history by rewriting and correcting published material to match the ever-changing demands of the English Socialist Party (INGSOC or ‘the Party’) of which Winston is a member. In reality Blair’s wife Eileen worked in the building during the war. (4) (5)

In recognition of this the building was used as Winston Smith’s workplace in the 1984 film version of Orwell’s novel. (6)

Evelyn Waugh, another British writer used Senate House as the location for his book ‘Put Out More Flags’.

Published in 1942, the building is described as keeping ‘all the secrets of all the services… hidden in that gross mass of masonry’.

In his 1943 novel ‘Ministry of Fear’ Graham Greene described the building as ‘a high heartless building’ with ‘windows always open for fear of blast and the cold winds whistle in’.

To add to Senate House’s notoriety, it has been suggested that it survived the destruction inflicted by the Luftwaffe because it was ear-marked as a ready-made and significant headquarters building in the German plans to administer occupied Britain. (7)

Given the accuracy of aerial bombing by both sides in the early war years – plans for the invasion of Britain were shelved after the German attack on the Soviet Union in 1941 – this seems unlikely.

Sources

(1) https://fashion-history.lovetoknow.com/fashion-clothing-industry/fashion-designers/norman-hartnell – retrieved 26 October 2019.

(2) https://www.senatehouseevents.co.uk/features/history-senate-house – retrieved 26 October 2019.

(3) https://london.ac.uk/about-us/history-university-london/ministry-information – retrieved 26 October 2019.

(4) https://www.senatehouselibrary.ac.uk/blog/building-literary-history – retrieved 26 October 2019.

(5) https://london.ac.uk/news-opinion/london-connection/news-brief/senate-house-opens-its-doors-graduates – retrieved 26 October 2019.

(6) https://london.ac.uk/about-us/history-university-london/on-the-screen-senate-house – retrieved 26 October 2019.

More information

Wartime fashion:

The image was made by an unidentified Mnistry of Information photographer for a series on women’s fashion.

To see more images in the series, go to https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections and search for
‘ Utility clothes ‘.

Other links:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/did-ww2-introduce-designer-fashion-to-our-high-streets/zjqfmfr

http://blogs.iwm.org.uk/research/2015/05/fashion-on-the-ration-1940s-street-style/

https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/how-clothes-rationing-affected-fashion-in-the-second-world-war

Linda Kitson – IWM’s official artist during the Falklands Conflict 1982

RICHARD MADDOX

IN MAY 1982 illustrator Linda Kitson became the first female artist to officially accompany men into battle and record the experience.

'MY FIRST FLIGHT WITH 825 SQUADRON' May 1982. An aerial view of the QE2 from the cockpit of a Sea King helicopter. The pilot is seated facing out to the ship below. Image copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference Art.IWM ART 15530 10. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/15358.

‘MY FIRST FLIGHT WITH 825 SQUADRON’ May 1982. An aerial view of the QE2 from the cockpit of a Sea King helicopter. The pilot is seated facing out to the ship below. Image copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference Art.IWM ART 15530 10. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/15358.

Commissioned by the Imperial War Museum’s Artistic Records Committee to produce work for the Museum and the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm.

On 12 May she was embarked on the liner MS Queen Elizabeth II and sailed with men of 5 Infantry Brigade to the conflict between the Argentinian military government and the UK in the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas). (1)

The ship had been ‘taken up from trade’ (requisitioned) to serve as one of the transports that would carry British forces to re-take the Falkland Islands from Argentine control who an operation that had begun 2 April 1982.

The original plan was for Linda to travel only as far as Ascension Island a major staging post for the British forces on their way south to the Falklands but still some 8,000 miles away. Instead she continued on the voyage. (2)

Linda’s journey would take her from Southampton in the south of England to South Georgia in the southern Atlantic Ocean – which by that time she arrived had been recaptured by British forces. There she transferred by Royal Navy Sea King helicopter to another liner, the SS Canberra on May 28 for the 800 nautical mile journey from South Georgia to the Falklands.

Linda’s pilot on that occasion was Lieutenant Commander Robin Everall, RN of No. 825 Naval Air Squadron, Fleet Air Arm.

She states in her book that ‘On May 21 he left quite suddenly. It was later said that he delivered the ceasefire papers to Port Stanley on the night of June 14. (3)

It is stated by another source that on that same day he and his crew flew continuously for 10.5 hours in support of the British Army’s Welsh Guards and the Gurkhas as they advanced on Port Stanley the Falkland Islands capital in the final stages of the conflict. (4)

As notable as this sortie is it was of course only part of the Squadron’s effort. One source states that in a two week period during the conflict No. 825 Naval Air Squadron flew 1700 hours – the equivalent number of hours they would have amassed over six months flying in the UK. (5)

The world-famous Queen Elizabeth II was deemed to be too prestigious – and too valuable a target – to risk getting too close to the Falkland Islands.

The ship would remain in the area of South Georgia until a nearby British ship was attacked. It then evacuated casualties back to the UK, arriving at Southampton on 11 June. (6)

SS Canberra would return to the UK after a hectic time spent landing British troops in the face of sustained Argentine air force attacks in San Carlos Water.

Although the 250 metre long liner (nicknamed the ‘Great White Whale‘ because of her colour) would enter the landing area three times to transferring troops. (7)

Miraculously it was not hit.

This may be because – in addition to being briefed to attack the warships in preference to the transports – the attacking pilots mistook the ship’s predominately white colour scheme for that used by hospital ships.

After the conflict had ended the ship repatriated Argentine prisoners of war. On 11 July Canberra entered Southampton at the end of its voyage home.(8)

THE INSTRUCTIONS on Kitson's portfolio of work. Image copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference Art.IWM ART 15530 63. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/15413

THE INSTRUCTIONS on Kitson’s portfolio of work. Image copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference Art.IWM ART 15530 63. Original source https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/15413

Aftermath

Linda Kitson is still a practising visual artist – although no longer using traditional media.

Following an attack of serious depression after her marriage came to an end she did not draw traditionally for more than a decade. (9)

She then started experimenting and creating artwork on mobile electronic devices. (10) Examples of her work can be found on her website. (11)

SS Canberra was sold for scrap in 1997, the operation – which took place in Pakistan – took a year to complete. (12)

MS Queen Elizabeth II is now a floating hotel and conference centre in Dubai. (13)

It is believed that Commander Everall RN commanded No. 771 Naval Air Squadron before taking at least one staff job with the Ministry of Defence in London. (14)

He was awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Gallantry in the Air – an award for specific actions during non-active service. The award was published on 14 June 1986. (15)

SIX OF LINDA KITSON'S DRAWINGS on display at IWM London showing events during the Falklands Conflict. Starting with British soldiers boarding the liner QE2, landing craft alongside Canberra, the burning wreck of the Sir Galahad landing ship and Scots Guardsman after the capture of Mount Tumbledown. Image copyright © R Maddox 2019.

SIX OF LINDA KITSON’S DRAWINGS on display at IWM London showing events during the Falklands Conflict. Starting with British soldiers boarding the liner QE2, landing craft alongside Canberra, the burning wreck of the Sir Galahad landing ship and Scots Guardsman after the capture of Mount Tumbledown. Image copyright © R Maddox 2019.

Sources

(1) https://rusi.org/publication/rusi-journal/drawing-falklands-julian-thompson-and-linda-kitson-discuss-war-artists-art – retrieved 8 February 2019

(2) https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/women-at-war-the-female-british-artists-who-were-written-out-of-history-2264670.html – retrieved 8 February 2019

(3) The Falklands War: A Visual Diary, Linda Kitson. Published by Michael Beazley in association with Imperial War Museum (1983) – page 19.

(4) https://issuu.com/navynews/docs/198210 – retrieved 8 February 2019

(5) The Falklands: Air War, Rodney Burden, Michael Draper, Douglas Rough, Colin Smith and David Wilton. Published by Arms and Armour Press (1986) – page 247.

(6) http://www.beyondships4.com/queen-elizabeth-2-falklands-2.html – retrieved 8 February 2019

(7) http://www.sscanberra.com/hist4finest.htm – retrieved 8 February 2019

(8) https://www.cruiselinehistory.com/the-great-british-liner-the-ss-canberra-the-last-gasp-of-the-british-empire/ – retrieved 8 February 2019

(9) https://www.studiointernational.com/index.php/linda-kitson-interview-drawings-and-projects-house-of-illustration-london – retrieved 8 February 2019

(10) https://www.londoncalling.com/features/linda-kitson-ipad-pictures-of-the-scalpel-the-city – retrieved 8 February 2019

(11) http://www.lindakitsondrawings.co.uk – retrieved 8 February 2019

(12) http://www.sscanberra.com/hist6fweek.htm – retrieved 8 February 2019

(13) https://www.theqe2story.com/aboutQE2/QE2Today.php – retrieved 8 February 2019

(14) https://www.royal.uk/military-honours-and-awards – retrieved 8 February 2019

(15) https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/50551/supplement/25/data.pdf and https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/50551/supplement/26/data.pdf – retrieved 8 February 2019

Further information

You can hear an hour-long interview with Linda about her work in general (made in April 2016) at: https://royaldrawingschool.org/lectures-events/linda-kitson-conversation-william-feaver/ – retrieved 8 February 2019.

In addition she talks about her Falklands work in a (approximately) 10 minute segment of a longer programme at:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p03m0mwl – retrieved 8 February 2019.

A number of her illustrations are in the IWM collection and can be found at the IWM Collections online webpage. In addition a selection of others can be seen at: https://illustrationchronicles.com/Linda-Kitson-s-Falklands-War – retrieved 8 February 2019.

There is a wealth of information on the Falklands Conflict both in print and online, including: https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/30-photographs-from-the-falklands-war – retrieved 8 February 2019.

https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/30-photographs-from-the-falklands-war