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The Ubiquitous Winston: a cowardly attempt to kidnap Lord Haw-Haw

William Heath Robinson (1872-1944)


Signed and inscribed 'Cowardly Manoeuvre by the First Lord to Kidnap Lord Haw Haw'
Inscribed 'To Oliver and Evelyn with love from Mother' (Josephine Heath Robinson [William's wife]) [/] 'To Donald and Lucy: We are delighted for you to have this original – Oliver and Evelyn' on reverse

Pen and ink on board

16 ¼ x 12 ½ inches

The Sketch, 24 January 1940, Page 99

'The Illustrators. The British Art of Illustration 1865-2019', Chris Beetles Gallery, November 2019-January 2020, No 63;
'A Century of British Art: 1900-1945', Chris Beetles Gallery, 21 June-17 July 2021, No 184

In 1940, William Heath Robinson contributed a series of cartoons to The Sketch, with the overarching title of ‘The ubiquitous Winston’. As always with Heath Robinson, the humour resides in part in the detailed, and delicate, delineation of complicated, even impossible, manoeuvres. However, this series adds a degree of gentle irony, both verbal and visual, by presenting events from the enemy’s point of view, and casting Britain’s wartime Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, as the villain of the piece – so here calling him ‘cowardly’. The underlying purpose of the series was to bolster morale among the British people by suggesting that Churchill was in complete control of all events, even at the micro-level. In this example, he is seen kidnapping William Joyce (1906-1946), the American-born fascist, who, during the war, broadcast Nazi propaganda to Britain from Germany. Joyce was the best known of the broadcasters to be identified as ‘Lord Haw-Haw’, a nickname coined by Jonah Barrington, the radio critic of the Daily Express.

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