When the going gets tough, the tough - laugh. It's perhaps the most endearing quality we Brits possess, and never was the British sense of humour more important than during the Second World War. Even the Government recognised that laughing at the enemy was a valuable weapon in our arsenal.
Cyril Bird, Art Editor on Punch at the outbreak of war, offered his services free of charge to the wartime government. Under the pen name Fougasse he produced a series of posters, which today are probably the most enduring images of British home front propaganda - Careless Talk Costs Lives. The Cheltenham born artist took his professional name from the fougasse, a French anti personnel mine to which he likened his cartoons - "its effectiveness is not always reliable and its aim uncertain."
Closer to home the mirth maker on the Swindon Evening Advertiser was George Arthur Middlelton. George was born in Pontefract in 1888, the son of James Robert Middleton, a corn factor, and his wife Annie. It would appear that cartoonist was not George's initial career choice. In 1911 he was boarding at 522 Chatsworth Road, Chesterfield where he worked as an Accountant Clerk. Drawing and having a laugh was probably not considered a very secure profession at the beginning of the 20th century.
Intelligent, topical and irreverent, George Middleton's cartoons were a regular feature in the wartime Swindon Evening Advertiser - raising a laugh even when George's personal life was far from funny.
George's 23 year old son John Derek Middleton was a Flight Lieutenant in 201 Squadron, the flying boat squadron based at RAF Sullom Voe in the Shetlands serving with Coastal Command. During the first week of July 1940 the Advertiser reported that Flying Officer Middleton, who had been on constant patrol since the outbreak of war, was reported missing and that no further details were known of the engagement from which he had failed to return. His body was never recovered.
Despite his devastating loss, George continued to draw his cartoons, cocking a snook at Hitler's posturing whilst raising a laugh at the same time. He died in 1970 aged 82.
Fougasse Careless Talk Costs Lives
Middleton - Swindon Evening Advertiser July/August 1940