Mystery Cartoonist's War Diary Given To Museum

By David Prudames | 04 August 2004
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Shows a cartoon depicting a German soldier with arrows pointing at him from either side. The arrows are linked on each side and represent lines of advancing troops. On the left are shown the flags of the USA, UK and France, while the USSR flag is on the right. Below is a caption which reads: "Oh! Ow Arrowing! But now you see the point!"

Photo: Courtesy The Cartoon Art Trust Museum.

Two albums containing 56 cartoons created between June 1944 and August 1945, that tell the story of the last days of the Second World War, have been given to the Cartoon Art Trust Museum in London.

The drawings are the creation of Ken Rolfe who, during the war, was seconded to the Ministry of Food in Colwyn Bay, Wales.

From crude drawings produced in June 1944, just after D-Day, to increasingly sophisticated comments on the Allied campaign in Europe, the images tell the story of the closing days of the Second World War from the perspective of an ordinary man.

"I feel they are of great historical importance," museum curator, Anita O’Brien told the 24 Hour Museum.

"They are of personal relevance, but also of wider relevance," she said, adding that the various images, "present a more complex picture of the feeling of the time."

Shows a cartoon depicting Adolf Hitler being cut down the middle with an axe. The blade of the axe bears the flags of the Allied countries, while a swastika appears to be breaking apart underneath his feet. Below is the date May 8 1945.

Photo: Courtesy The Cartoon Art Trust Museum.

Unfortunately, nothing is known of the artist himself, where he came from or what became of him after the war. But, as Anita explained, staff at the museum are hoping that publicity from a display of his work will help them track down more information about him.

"There may be somebody who knows him," said Anita, "or knew him, or a member of the family that we might be able to find out more about him from."

The pencil, ink and watercolour images were produced on the backs of scraps of paper headed 'The Milk Powder Pool Ltd' and 'Indemnity agreement', and were, at the time, stuck to the notice board of Rolfe’s office for the amusement of colleagues.

Roughly bound into two brown paper albums, the collection was presented to Rolfe’s colleague 'Slim' Izod in 1945.

Shows a cartoon depicting six men, dressed to look like Adolf Hitler, carrying a coffin on top of which has been placed a military cap and two wreaths. Below a caption reads: "Who's in the box? Is you is or is you ain't mein fuhrer"

Photo: Courtesy The Cartoon Art Trust Museum.

A short inscription at the beginning of the first volume – marked 1944 – gives some idea of how the amateur artist viewed his work.

"These rough sketches express our mixed feelings on the various subjects commencing with the anxious days prior to D-Day," it reads, "a number are based on little items of war news that filtered through to this out of the way spot in Wales."

The images he created show how Rolfe cast a critical eye over the events unfolding across the channel as the Allies set about liberating Europe.

Importantly, they offer a fascinating glimpse of the way the fighting and key moments were viewed at home.

A cartoon dated 01.05.45, the day after Adolf Hitler’s suicide, depicts a coffin being carried by pall bearers that look remarkably like the dead dictator above the caption: "Who’s in the box?"

Shows a cartoon depicting a vast number of houses stretching towards the horizon. In the foreground a man is sitting on a pile of rubble and saying: "Why pick on me?"

Photo: Courtesy The Cartoon Art Trust Museum.

He is clearly expressing what must have been a widely felt disbelief that Hitler was actually gone forever.

But he also turned his attention to life on the home front. An image showing vast swathes of housing features a man sitting on a pile of rubble, asking: "Why pick on me?"

Another particularly haunting image shows hoards of skeletons in German uniform, one of whom is pointing a bony hand at an awkward looking Hitler above the caption "Behold the Man".

The albums were passed on to 'Slim' Izod’s daughter Patricia who, now in her seventies, kept them in perfect condition and donated them to the Cartoon Art Trust Museum.

Both are set to be one of the highlights of the forthcoming exhibition War, Work and Other Worlds, running at the museum from August 18 until November 6.

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