Revealed: The forgotten Giles cartoons

Alan Frame addresses the launch as Tim Benson, right, looks on

By ALASTAIR McINTYRE

An important and entertaining new book about Daily and Sunday Express cartoonist Carl Giles has been launched by ALAN FRAME, former executive editor of the daily paper.

The book, which contains cartoons Giles wrote between the war years 1939 and 1945, has been painstakingly compiled by Tim Benson, who runs the Political Cartoon Gallery in Putney, south-west London where the book was launched on 4th July, 2017.

Benson said that Peter Tory had written a ‘dreadful' book about the cartoonist which was not helped by the fact that the two men loathed each other. (Tory had been commissioned to write the book in 1995 by an unsuspecting publisher. Buy it here.)

Frame said it had been his job to juggle the egos of Giles, Jean Rook and others when he was features editor of the Express. Twice a week Giles would draw a cartoon which he put on a train at Ipswich and a messenger was dispatched to Liverpool Street station to collect it. Often the cartoon would not be on the promised train and the page would be held up until it finally arrived.

Giles, a curmudgeonly man who earned hundreds of thousands of pounds a year from the Express, was once taken to lunch in London by Sir Max Aitken. As they walked through Berkeley Square, Sir Max asked Giles how he was getting home. ‘By the train,’ said the cartoonist.

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Max tore up the train ticket and marched Giles into a car showroom … and bought him a brand new Bentley Turbo.

Frame said Giles’s cartoons had to be checked carefully before publication. In one he had drawn Rupert the Bear hanging from a noose. 

The cartoonist had started his Fleet Street career on Reynold’s News, a Left-wing Sunday newspaper which matched Giles’s views. He had to change them when he persuaded Lord Beaverbrook to give him a job on the Right-leaning Express.

The blurb on Tim Benson’s book reads: 'Few contemporaries captured Britain's indomitable wartime spirit as well or as wittily as the cartoonist Carl Giles. Now, for the first time, the very best of the cartoons he produced between 1939 and 1945 are brought together, including many that have not seen the light of day in over 75 years.'

As a young cartoonist at Reynold’s News and then the Daily Express, Giles's work provided a crucial morale boost – and much-needed laughs – to a population suffering daily privations and danger, and Giles's War shows why. 

Here are his often hilarious takes on the great events of the war – from the Fall of France, via D-Day, to the final Allied victory – but also his wryly amusing depictions of ordinary people in extraordinary times, living in bombed-out streets, dealing with food shortages, coping with blackouts, railing against bureaucracy and everyday annoyances. It's a brilliantly funny chronicle of our nation’s finest hour, as well as a fitting tribute to one of our greatest cartoonists.

BUY THE BOOK

Guardian book review

When Giles said: I can’t draw people




© 2005-2018 Alastair McIntyre