Picturing Conflict: the Arts of War
War Stamps

Poster stamps
Designed by Frank Brangwyn and sold to raise funds for various causes.This series of stamps show how British soldiers were helped by the Red Cross – a voluntary organisation caring for the sick and wounded in the war.
© Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales

ENQUIRIES: 

  • Where was Brangwyn born and how did this colour his feelings about the war? How did he use his artistic talents to help the war effort? How were the graphic arts used generally during the war?

  • What were 'tank banks' and what did they do?

  • How, apart from ‘tank banks,’ were people encouraged to invest in or show their support for the war effort? How do people show their support for different causes today?

How were people persuaded to fund the war?

These striking ‘poster stamps’ were not intended for ordinary use, and were more like miniature advertisements. Designed by leading artist Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956) they were sold through newspapers, that were keen to display their patriotism, with the intention of raising money for the war effort.

The six stamps in this series show how British soldiers were helped by the Red Cross – a voluntary organisation caring for the sick and wounded in the war. The designs were based on a series of woodcuts by Brangwyn called At the Front and At the Base.

Brangwyn, who was born in Belgium, was profoundly affected by the war and applied his considerable energies to the war effort in many ways. Although never an official war artist, Brangwyn was a multi-talented graphic designer: he produced over eighty propaganda posters and was one of many leading artists who contributed to an important print series – The Great War: Britain’s Efforts and Ideals – commissioned by the Ministry of Information.

Brangwyn's talent for creating powerful and persuasive images, rooted in the realism of war, can also be seen in two huge murals in the front hall at the National Museum, Cardiff – Heavy Gun in Action and A Tank in Action.

Vast amounts of money were needed by the Government to finance its military operations. People were encouraged, through a series of posters and other campaigns, to invest their money in War Bonds. They were promised high rates of interest (5%) that would be paid once the war was over. 

In 1917, a popular national campaign was launched to promote the sale of War Bonds and Savings Certificates. Six tanks (which had appeared for the first time on the battlefields of France in 1916) made a tour of British towns and cities.  On 'tank days', schoolchildren marched in procession to the 'tank bank' to buy their certificates. They stood and watched as this powerful new 'wonder weapon' rolled over a mock up mound of earth and sandbags, crushing the barbed wire. Towns competed with each other to win a tank by investing the most money.  

Many people organised their own local fund-raising activities for specific purposes –  such as providing recreation facilities and comforts for the men at the Front.

A wide range of colourful flags and badges were sold on the streets (often by children or convalescent and disabled servicemen). They promoted causes such as the Red Cross, or the Blue Cross, which helped war horses – and raised money to build battleships, aeroplanes or tanks.  

FOLLOW UP ACTIVITIES:

  • Investigate the range of Brangwyn's designs for propaganda posters. What different aspects of the war do they focus on? Find out which of his posters particularly upset the German Kaiser.

  • Compare these 'poster stamps' designed by Brangwyn in the First World War with commemorative stamps produced by the Royal Mail for the Centenary in 2014. What are the differences and similarities? Who was Pte. Tickle and why is he included in this series?

  • The tanks were given individual names. Look at this image of a tank that came to Trafalgar Square in November 1917.

IWM: War Bonds

How do you think people, including children, might have felt about seeing the new technology of war?

British Pathé: Tank Bank

What other ways were children involved in the war effort? This short film will give you some ideas.

EXPLORE RELATED OBJECTS:

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Poster stamps

Designed by Frank Brangwyn and sold to raise funds for various causes.This series of stamps show how British…

Poster stamps

Designed by Frank Brangwyn and sold to raise funds for the war.
© Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales

Sir Frank Brangwyn

by Emil Otto ('E.O.') Hoppé
platinum print, 1909
NPG P172…

Acetylene Welder from Building Aircraft portfolio

by C.R.W. Nevinson
lithograph on paper, 1917

'The Great War: Britain’s Efforts and…

Tank in Palestine

A sepia photo entitled 'A burnt-out tank on Outpost Hill before the Gaza stunt' in Palestine in 1917. 1st/4th…

Silk banner (front)

Presented to the 'Madame Clara Novello Davies Fund'. The back is printed with a wartime song written by her…

Flag day badges sold in aid of various charities

© Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales

Silk banner (reverse)

Presented to the 'Madame Clara Novello Davies Fund'. The back is printed with a wartime song written by her…

Flag day badges sold in aid of various charities

© Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales

Wiltshire Regiment. Three wounded soldiers selling flags.

Private R.C.H. Frampton ( b. 1889)  is on the right
© The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum