World War 2 propaganda (2)

The second in our short series of posts on World War 2 propaganda features an interesting leaflet. Most of the propaganda leaflets in the University Library’s collections are examples of leaflets which the RAF dropped over mainland Europe. But this one is a leaflet dropped by the German Luftwaffe over Britain, in this case landing in the Essex village of Birdbrook, south of Haverhill.

The leaflet was sent to the Librarian by Herbert Richmond, then a 77 year old Fellow of King’s College, with an accompanying letter in which he related how a large number of the leaflets (which he described as ridiculous) were found in a cardboard box near to a small balloon which had come down in a hedge. His niece presumably lived in the village and had got hold of a copy for him to pass to the University Library.


From our 21st century viewpoint we imagine that propaganda leaflets were scattered far and wide when dropped from aeroplanes, so dropping a whole load in one box seems like a somewhat strange way of effectively delivering the leaflets. We can only speculate now on how common this method was.

The leaflet itself features a famous photograph of Winston Churchill holding a Thompson sub-machine gun (Tommy gun). The photo was taken in July 1940 when Churchill was inspecting a coastal defence unit near Hartlepool. This picture was seized upon for propaganda purposes by Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany, and incorporated into the leaflet with the caption “Wanted: for incitement to murder”. The text on the back of the leaflet likens Churchill to a gangster and calls on anyone finding a copy of the leaflet to “save at least your families from the horrors of war”.IMG_0576

Katharine Dicks

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