Firebomb Fritz

A wartime British defensive propaganda character (mostly forgotten today) was ‘Firebomb Fritz’. Here in colour:

INF3_1421

…and here in black and white, both by Reginald Mount. (Original UK National Archives caption: “Fritz in Nazi bomber” by Reginald Mount, 1942 Catalogue ref: INF 3/1421. The cartoon depicts determined (but subservient) looking German air force men flying towards Britain (note the map in their hands) as the evil-looking animated fire-bomb Fritz sits back, relaxes and awaits his opportunity to cause a fire storm.)

The lower image is probably incomprehensible today; ‘Fritz’ represents an incendiary bomb, and in the lower image he’s being tangled and overcome by stirrup pumps, each featuring the face of a member of the community. Stirrup pumps are obsolete, but sadly incendiary bombs are still around and even more able to cause fires.

INF3_1362

(Original UK National Archives caption: “Fritz meets his Nemesis” Reginald Mount, 1942. Ink & inkwash on board. Catalogue ref: INF 3/1362. An animated drawing for ‘Fire-bomb Fritz’, in the same series as INF 3/1421 and INF 3/1423. The Nazi fire-bomb (responsible for some of the most expensive fire-damage in the war) is rendered useless by a number of very determined British stirrup-pumps, including a determined-looking woman and a retired Colonel.)

The third example mentioned:

INF3_1423

(Original UK National Archives caption: “Fritz is awakened” by Reginald Mount, 1942. Catalogue ref: INF 3/1423. The catalogue entry reads: ‘Fritz is awakened’. The slide-style image depicts a firebomb awakening from sleep, ready for duty, to serve and cause damage on behalf of the Nazi war effort. The image was obviously expected to be recognisable as a firebomb, so probably dates from after the famous ‘Firebomb Fritz’ poster of 1941.)

The detail in the cartoon is neat, scathing, and as well as repeated Nazi imagery, don’t overlook the bomb tail fin section as a wall light. The caption goes on to give some fascinating background context: “Advertiser’s Weekly, discussing the earlier poster in September 1941, describe the new campaign on behalf of the Ministry of Home Security, intended to impress upon ‘the-man-in-the-street’ his responsibility for fighting fire bombs (which caused some of the most expensive damage of the war). The use of the cartoon element was a novelty, with an animated incendiary bomb whose expression – comic, rather than terrifying – was intended to reassure people of the harmlessness of incendiaries if tackled in time, and believed to more effective than any number of slogans.”

We’ve seen Reginald Mount before here, and he’s a well known artist from the era. The name may not be familiar, but the art will often be.

James Kightly, Vintage Aero Writer.

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