Your Country Needs You! 100 years old today!

100 years ago today, on the 5 September 1914, the most iconic image of the First World War was first published.

The now infamous drawing of Field Marshal Lord Kitchener by Alfred Leete (1882-1933) featured on the front of The London Opinion magazine accompanied by the words ‘Your Country Needs You’.

Alfred Leete’s artwork on the front cover of London Opinion magazine, 1914

Alfred Leete’s artwork on the front cover of London Opinion magazine, 1914

 

This image was later adapted into an unofficial recruiting poster by the magazine with the words ‘Britons [Kitchener] Needs You’. In 1917 it was also adapted into an American version with the words ‘Uncle Sam Needs You’.

Alfred Leete’s artwork adapted into an unofficial recruitment poster, 1915

Alfred Leete’s artwork adapted into an unofficial recruitment poster, 1915

 

By 1914, Alfred was one of the best commercial artists in the country. Having grown up in Weston-super-Mare he had moved to London in 1899, aged just 17, to establish himself as a commercial artist. At first he struggled to get his work accepted by the national papers and magazines. He kept trying and soon many publications, including Punch, Tatler, and The London Opinion, were regularly publishing his drawings.

Alfred Leete at work, c1910-1920. (North Somerset Local Studies Collection)

Alfred Leete at work, c1910-1920.
(North Somerset Local Studies Collection)

 

Interestingly, his image of Lord Kitchener gained most of its popularity after the First World War had ended. From the 1920s onwards it really began to capture people’s imaginations. It has been used as the inspiration for many new posters including one with Churchill’s face in the Second World War. Other adaptations were produced in Australia, Canada, South Africa, India, Italy, Austria, Germany, and Bolshevik Russia.

‘Did you Volunteer?’ poster designed by Dmitry Moor inspired by Alfred Leete’s iconic image of General Kitchener, 1920

‘Did you Volunteer?’ poster designed by Dmitry Moor inspired by Alfred Leete’s iconic image of Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, 1920

 

Alfred died on 17 June 1933 in Kensington, London and is buried in the Milton Road Cemetery in Weston-super-Mare. His drawing of Kitchener is still being reproduced, copied and adapted today.

Weston-super-Mare Museum volunteer recruitment poster, 2012 (Courtesy of Weston-super-Mare Town Council)

Weston-super-Mare Museum volunteer recruitment poster, 2012
(Courtesy of Weston-super-Mare Town Council)

 

Alfred Leete is currently featuring in the exhibition ‘Five Lives, Five Stories: North Somerset People and the First World War’ at the Weston-super-Mare Museum until 14 December 2014. Many of his original artworks are on display. Entry to the exhibition is free. The museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 5pm. For more information please ring 01934 621028 or email museum@wsm-tc.gov.uk.

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