By THEA LENARDUZZI
On one of the hottest days of the year, I ducked into the coolness of the British Library for a little breather. Aside from the watercooler, I was attracted by one of the library’s current exhibitions, Enduring War: Grief, grit and humour, which runs along the back wall of the Folio Society Gallery, out of direct sunlight.
Insofar as grief, grit and humour could be separated in the midst of a war that obliterated most other things man thought he could distinguish, the exhibition brings together private and public ephemera – memorial rolls, photographs, official posters, a knitting-pattern for balaclavas – which has taken on new significance in this centenary year.
Walking into the section loosely held together by humour, I found examples of satire from both sides: the German Thomas Theodor Heine’s cartoon “The Englishman and his Globe” (1915), which shows a puny-looking colonizer desperately straddling his blood-soaked empire (“Curses! Blood is more slippery than water!”) confronts us with a very different embodiment of Britain than does the best-foot-forward, Churchillian muscleman of “Kill That Eagle”, produced in London in 1914 – the year before the then Lord of the Admiralty’s disastrous involvement in Gallipoli:
(The French, meanwhile, were depicting L’Armée du Kaiser as a bunch of wilting radishes, their Pickelhaubes bent and scraggly.)