The War Illustrated

This piece was actually researched and written by Megan Turnpenney – a student from Greenhead College –who was on a placement with us at Abbey House Museum last week. Having come across these items a few weeks ago, but not having had the chance to put anything together for the blog, it seemed a perfect opportunity for Megan to get to work…
At Abbey House museum we house a collection of magazines written during and after the Second World War. The magazine- ‘The War Illustrated’- was originally started in 1914 at the start of the first World War, but was discontinued in 1919 after the war ended. However it later returned at the start of World War II and continued to be published until 1947. The magazine was edited by John Hammerton, it was published every alternate Friday and was extremely popular. The popularity was partly due to the fact that the magazines expressed the views of the British public throughout the war.
The magazines covered a range of articles from what certain regiments of the army were doing in the war effort to eye witness stories of the war. The magazine also discussed key debates of the time such as whether Britain could still count herself as an island or whether she was truly dependant on others to survive. ‘The War Illustrated’ tried to boost morale whilst also trying to give informative and accurate information. Certain stories were heartbreaking to read as they recounted gruesome tales of life in a Nazi prison camps and the suffering of hundreds or thousands.

However many articles were written not to shock readers but to increase patriotism and support of the war. One such page displayed a picture of The N.A.A.F.I ( Navy, Army and Air force Institutes) the picture only contained women who, for the first time, would be working in the Forces canteen at Singapore- all the women shown look in a state of happiness and excitement for the task they are about to embark on. (Volume 7, Magazine number 175, pictured above.)

Another article which was published contained a condensed version of a speech given by Churchill – Prime Minister of the time. In this speech the Premier gave an inspiring review of the accomplishments and ordeals that led to victory in Europe. “I told you hard things at the beginning of these last five years. You did not shrink, and I should be unworthy of your confidence” Also in this certain magazine, published a month after Germany’s surrender, there is a picture on the last page of Churchill passing through Downing Street surrounded by an exuberant crowd after hearing of Germany’s unconditional surrender. (Volume 9, Magazine number 208, pictured below.)

As we are a museum service, one article had to be included. On the back page of an edition of the magazine, there was a picture of 20 tonnes of Precious manuscripts and ancient documents being returned to the British Museum after spending six years in their wartime repository at Skipton Castle. Yorkshire accumulated the artefacts in 1939 due to the imminence of war and the possibility of air-raids on main sites in London. The boxes containing the manuscripts were guarded by police and railway detectives; the boxes were also padded, locked and sealed to ensure minimum danger to these precious documents. (Volume 9, Magazine number 227, pictured below).


Sadly, the original City Museum in Leeds wasn’t lucky enough to have an alternative home – it was hit by an air raid in 1941, and many of the objects were damaged. A visitor to the website comments on how their mother was taken to see the damage, and saw Nessy the Leeds Mummy out on the street!

One Comment Add yours

  1. liits says:

    The WW1 version of The War illustrated seems to have been printed “regionally” as per the modern-day TV listings magazines. I have the first seven volumes [of, I believe, thirteen volumes] and while consecutive in date, they appear to be from two different regions; the West and East Ridings of Yorkshire and Manchester and the North West.
    I recently came across a complete set in an Oxfam Bookshop in Central London but didn’t buy them as it turned out that they were a reprint from the 1930’s. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what, but they were lacking something.
    As to the picture of the NAAFI girls, I had the pleasure of working for NAAFI for a number of years and it came as quite a shock to find that the organisation was “manned” predominantly by women.


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