Save Your Bit

I’ve been rummaging around in the VADS picture archives again, and to my delight have discovered that the Imperial War Museum have uploaded many, many more war posters recently.  I’m not even a quarter of the way through them yet, but this set did particularly amuse me.  They start off fine, even if I don’t actually know what the first one is on about.

Burn Your Cinders vintage WW2 Board of Trade propaganda poster VADS IWM

Even the next one seems fairly reasonable, if a bit depressing.

Fewer Hot Baths vintage WW2 Board of Trade propaganda poster VADS IWM

But they won’t stop there, oh no.

Go To Bed Early vintage WW2 Board of Trade propaganda poster VADS IWM

And although I can find it funny now, it probably wasn’t then.  From this distance it’s easy to rhapsodise over the Blitz Spirit and everyone pulling together, but sometimes the Second World War must have felt like really grindingly hard work.  Especially when you were being ordered about by posters like that one on every street corner and in every shop.  It would have been enough to make me stay up late out of defiance.  Perhaps it’s fortunate that they weren’t reliant on me to win the war.

Save Your Bit vintage WW2 Board of Trade propaganda poster VADS IWM

  • The first poster: You light and laze about in front of your coal fire.
    Eventually you have to let it go out (when it’s time to turn in early as instructed).
    When you come to set the fire again there will be big bits of coal only partially burned (cinders).
    So you don’t throw them away,you put them back onto the new fire you are building, to use up their full potential.
    See, growing up with coal fires and finding it impossible to buy a house that doesn’t have at least one hearth has filled me with vital information, if a mere 70 odd years late.
    I do like these posters but I couldn’t see Mrs Jeffery voting for them to be framed and hung over the mantlepiece somehow.

  • Now I know, thank you. We have a woodburner and do burn old wood, but clearly didn’t have the vocabulary to describe it.

    These bossy posters do amuse me; my favourite ever was at Onslows a while back and just said DON’T BURN YOUR SHOES. Not something I’d ever thought about doing until I saw the poster. In fact they meant, don’t damage them by drying them out too close to the fire. But that’s not so funny.

  • No, it was the size of a barn door! And not a looker either. But I mention it so often that I rather wish we had…

  • I think one of the really extraordinary things about the war is that people did things like fire watching or being in the Home Guard or whatever and then went to work the next day …….. they must have spent most of the time being exhausted

  • That’s so true; all pulling together must have been hard enough at the best of times, even without chronic sleep deprivation.

    I have read some mention of this, but can’t remember in what context. Either in the Mass Observation diaries or an Elizabeth Bowen novel, I think.

  • I like the “bossy poster” concept. The subtleties of modern life and sophistication of language used by the modern advertising industry come into sharp contrast against a time not so long ago when directness was to the fore.

  • That’s a good point – this bossiness didn’t spring into life fully-formed at the start of WW2. They’d all had years of practice writing ads along the lines of Drink Ovaltine Now. Perhaps we need a bit more of that kind of thing now.

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