Tag Archives: First World War

Alfred Leete, graphic artist

Alfred Leete

Alfred Ambrose Chew Leete was born in Thorpe Achurch in Northamptonshire on 28th August 1882. His parents, John and Harriet, were farmers. John Leete gave up farming, due to ill health, in 1893 and the family moved to Weston-super-Mare, where Harriet ran a series of boarding houses. Alfred attended Kingsholme School and the School of Science and Art (now Weston College). At the age of 12 he was apprenticed to a surveyor in Bristol. He loved drawing and was a self-taught artist. In 1897 the Daily Graphic paid him for a drawing and he went on to make regular contributions to the Bristol Magpie.

In 1899 Alfred Leete moved to London to work as an artist for a printer. He went freelance in 1905, when the magazine Punch published one of his drawings. Over the next few years he contributed cartoons and drawings to the comic Ally Sloper's Half Holiday, the Pall Mall Gazette, Strand Magazine, Tatler, Sketch, The Bystander, Punch and the London Opinion. He specialised in comic illustration, cartoons, posters and advertisements.

In November 1909 Alfred married Edith Jane Webb. Their first child, a daughter called Betty, was born in 1910 but died a few weeks later. Their son Alfred John was born in 1914.

Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August 1914. On 5th September 1914 Alfred's drawing of the Secretary of State for War, Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, pointing his finger, featured on the front cover of the London Opinion, with the words "Your Country Needs YOU" beneath the picture. The image was later used by the magazine as an unofficial recruitment poster with the words "Britons [Kitchener] "Wants YOU", Join Your Country's Army!". The magazine also had this image displayed on advertising hoardings in London in the autumn of 1914.

Poster Lord Kitchener
Alfred Leete’s iconic drawing of Lord Kitchener

In 1917 the American artist James Montgomery Flagg adapted Alfred's drawing by substituting Uncle Sam for Lord Kitchener and using the slogan "I Want YOU for U.S. Army". It also inspired similar posters, which were produced in Australia, Canada, South Africa, India, Italy, Austria, Germany and Russia. In the Second World War Kitchener's face was replaced by Churchill's on a recruitment poster for the Australian Imperial Force. Although Alfred Leete's drawing of Lord Kitchener was never used as an official recruitment poster, it has become one of the most iconic and enduring images of the First World War.

During the First World War Alfred produced several comic cartoons, which made fun of the Germans. In 1916 he joined the Artists' Rifles. He served with them on the Western Front in France and produced a series of drawings of his experiences there.

In the 1920s Alfred produced illustrations for successful advertising campaigns for companies such as Guinness, Bovril, London Underground, Younger's Ales and Rowntree's. He often visited Weston-super-Mare and produced advertisements for local businesses and cartoons about local issues. In 1925 he designed the cover for the Weston-super-Mare Official Guide, which was entitled "Atlantic Breezes".

Alfred Leete Atlantic Breezes
Atlantic Breezes 1

Alfred Leete was taken ill on a trip to Italy and he died of a brain haemorrhage at his home in Kensington, London on 17th June 1933. He was buried in Milton Road Cemetery in Weston-super-Mare.

Grave of Alfred Leete
Alfred Leete’s grave in Milton Rd, Weston


Royal Observer Corps Monitoring Posts

The Observer Corps was set up in 1925 but had its roots in the First World War. The need for an organised early warning system was recognised when the Germans started aerial bombing raids on southern England using Zeppelin airships in 1915. A network of observers stationed at strategic locations was set up.

During the 1930s the number of observation posts was greatly increased until by 1939 the whole of Britain was covered by the network. During the Battle of Britain in 1940 the Corps plotted the positions of German aircraft and passed the information to the RAF. To recognise the value of this work, on 9th April 1941 King George VI conferred the title Royal on the Observer Corps. Women were allowed to join the ROC from July 1941.

From 1940-42 a network of 150 satellite posts was established to improve coverage along the south and east coasts of Britain as far north as Dundee and on the coasts of Lancashire and Cheshire. Some of these posts were manned by the ROC but most were manned by the RAF, coastguards or Anti-Aircraft Command.

The ROC was temporarily stood down on 12th May 1945 but was reactivated in 1947 in response to post war threats from the Soviet Bloc. In 1955 the ROC was given responsibility for giving warning of air attacks in a future war and to measure radioactivity levels in the event of a nuclear attack. The above ground monitoring posts offered little protection from radioactivity. Therefore a programme of works was developed to build a network of underground posts. By 1964 1,563 underground posts had been constructed across the UK. They were designed to provide satisfactory blast protection and to be able to be used self-sufficiently for a number of weeks if a nuclear attack on the UK had occurred.

Cuts in defence spending reduced the number of ROC posts to 873 in 1968. With the final end to the Cold War and more cuts in defence spending the ROC was finally stood down on 30th September 1991.

In North Somerset ROC Underground Monitoring Posts were located at Long Ashton, Portishead, Clevedon, Bleadon and Winscombe. The Winscombe and Clevedon posts have been demolished. Remains of the Portishead and Bleadon posts can be seen from public rights of way. The Long Ashton post may still exist but it is not on a public right of way.

Bleadon's ROC Monitoring Post is now in the middle of a new golf course on the top of Bleadon Hill. It was built in 1959 and used until 1991. The access and ventilation shafts are both visible from a public footpath, which runs northwards from Roman Road. Grid reference: ST345 579

Remains of Bleadon ROC Monitoring Post

The very overgrown and truncated remains of the access shaft of Portishead ROC Monitoring Post can be seen in a small area of waste land on the south side of Down Road. It was built in 1964 but closed down in 1968. Grid reference: ST448 759

Remains of Portishead ROC Monitoring Post

A comprehensive survey of the remains of all the ROC Monitoring Posts in the United Kingdom can be found on the Subterranea Britannica website: http://www.subbrit.org.uk/category/nuclear-monitoring-posts

A comprehensive history of the Royal Observer Corps can be found on the Royal Observer Corps Association's website: http://www.roc-heritage.co.uk/roc-history.html

Further Reading:

Attack Warning Red: The Royal Observer Corps and the Defence of Britain 1925 to 1992: Derek Wood. Macdonald and Jane's Publishers Limited, 1992

Edith Cavell

Bust of Edith Cavell, Norwich

Edith Louisa Cavell was born on December 4th 1865 in the village of Swardeston in Norfolk, where her father Frederick was the vicar for 45 years. After being educated at home for several years, Edith boarded at Belgrave House School in Elton Road, Clevedon from 1883-84. She then attended schools in London and Peterborough. In 1889 she became governess to a family in Brussels and she remained in this post for six years. She returned to England in 1895 to nurse her seriously ill father and she then decided to train as a nurse. She trained at the Royal London Hospital and then worked at various hospitals in London and Manchester.

1 Elton Rd, Clevedon

Blue Plaque outside 1 Elton Rd, Clevedon

In 1907 Edith was appointed as director of a new nurses' training school in Brussels, which had just been set up by Dr Antoine De Page. She successfully persuaded potential recruits and members of her committee that nursing was a respectable profession and one which required professional training.

After the German occupation of Belgium in late 1914, Edith became involved in an underground group formed to help British, French, and Belgian soldiers reach the Netherlands, which was a neutral country. The soldiers were sheltered at the Berkendael Institute, which had become a Red Cross hospital. They were provided with money and guides by a Belgian called Philippe Baucq. About 200 men had been helped before Edith and several others were arrested in August 1915 by the Germans.

The group of nine people was brought before a court martial on October 7th, 1915, accused of assisting the enemy and of trying to damage the German war effort. Edith Cavell made a full confession and was sentenced to death on October 9th, along with four others. The remaining four were sentenced to hard labour. Edith Cavell and Philippe Baucq were executed by a firing squad on October 12th 1915 in Brussels, despite the efforts of the American and Spanish ministers to secure a reprieve. Edith's execution on a charge, which did not include espionage, was considered outrageous and was widely publicised by the Allies.

Edith Cavell's Memorial outside Norwich Cathedral
Edith Cavell’s Memorial outside Norwich Cathedral

After the war there was a funeral service for Edith Cavell at Westminster Abbey and on 15th May 1919 her body was reburied on the outside of the south east corner of Norwich Cathedral. She is commemorated on the Swardeston village sign and by a statue in St Martin's Place in London. There are busts of her at the London Hospital Museum; in Brussels; Melbourne in Australia and Norwich. She also has many streets in the UK and across the world named after her and a bar in Tombland, Norwich There is a blue plaque on 1 Elton Road, Clevedon, commemorating the time she spent at school in Clevedon.


Cavell's Bar with stained glass window of Edith, Tombland, Norwich
Cavell’s Bar with stained glass window of Edith, Tombland, Norwich


Further Reading:

Edith Cavell: Faith before the Firing Squad: Catherine Butcher. Monarch Books, 2015
Edith Cavell: Nurse, Martyr, Heroine: Diana Souhami. Quercus Publishing, 2015