Why should I keep calm and carry on?

Why should I keep calm and carry on?

-A Brief History of the Keep Calm and Carry on illustration.

Keep Calm and Carry On was a propaganda 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,
though 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 the country 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 designed to be a design associated with the Ministry of Information, and to have a unique and recognisable lettering, 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

(original script courtesy of Wikipedia)

When i first looked into the history of this well known, and well mocked.. illustration, I had a giggle and a smirk, I really didn’t think the message could instill the kind of strength that it set out do; but over time the reality of what it all symbolized and a reiteration of the message and meaning in my own mind, have actually really solidified the validity of it.
During times of need, or mental stress, the amount of times I have turned and relied on this simple phrase, bright in red, solid in its meaning, and found some form of courage.

I’m now sure, had this message had been deployed during those times it was destined for- those who required its mental support, would have received it by poster-full.



  1. kris10weeksy · April 4, 2013

    That was really interesting, I had no idea all the Keep calm and blah blah blah memes filling up my Facebook feed had such a deep and historically meaningful background!

    • primopromo · April 4, 2013

      I was the same when I first found out 🙂

  2. benrowef64 · April 4, 2013

    I did know the history of the poster but it is still interesting reading about it again. There is also a legal case about the copyright of the poster after Mark Coop was granted EU copyright of the slogan in April last year.

    • primopromo · April 4, 2013

      -Thanks for your comments Benrowe 🙂 always appreciate your input.

      Im not surprised at all about the case huh. I now believe this to be an amazing piece of art, made even more so by the fact it was never required.
      The original artist must be perplexed by this- what was intended for war was finally used for humour. – what better result could you wish for yet.. such an insulting use of the efforts used to create it. I might have to go see what was involved in the case! 

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