Keep calm and carry on
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Keep Calm and Carry On was a motivational poster produced by the British government in 1939 during the beginning of the Second World War, intended to raise the morale of the British public in the aftermath of widely predicted mass air attacks on major cities. It had only limited distribution with no public display, and thus was little known. The poster was rediscovered in 2000, has been re-issued by a number of private companies, and has been used as the decorative theme for a range of products. It was believed there were only two known surviving examples of the poster outside government archives until a collection of 15 originals was brought in to the Antiques Roadshow in 2012 by the daughter of an ex-Royal Observer Corps member.The poster was initially produced by the Ministry of Information,at the beginning of the Second World War. It was intended to be distributed in order to strengthen morale in the event of a wartime disaster, such as mass bombing of major cities using high explosives and poison gas, which was widely expected within hours of an outbreak of war. Over 2,500,000 copies were printed, although the poster was distributed only in limited numbers, and never saw public display.The poster was third in a series of three. The previous two posters from the series, "Freedom Is In Peril. Defend It With All Your Might" and "Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory" were issued and used across Britain for motivational purposes, as the Ministry of Information assumed that the events of the first weeks of the war would demoralise the population. Planning for the posters started in April 1939; by June designs were prepared, and by August 1939, production had begun, and the posters were ready to be placed up within 24 hours of the outbreak of war. The posters were intended to be associated with the Ministry of Information, and to incorporate a unique and recognisable lettering and design, with a message from the King to his people. An icon of a "Tudor" crown (a widely used symbol of government authority) was chosen to head the poster, rather than a photograph. The slogans were created by civil servants, with a career civil servant named Waterfield coming up with "Your Courage" as "a rallying war-cry that will bring out the best in everyone of us and put us in an offensive mood at once". These particular posters were designed as "a statement of the duty of the individual citizen", un-pictorial, to be accompanied by more colloquial designs. The "Your Courage" poster was much more famous during the war, as it was the first of the Ministry of Information's posters.However, although the campaign was prompt, and although 800,000 of the "Freedom Is In Peril" and "Your Courage" posters were distributed, many people claimed not to have seen them; while those who did see them regarded them as patronising and divisive. Design historian Susannah Walker regards the campaign as "a resounding failure", and reflective of a misjudgement by upper-class civil servants of the mood of the people.
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