THE BIOGRAPHY OF CAPTAIN BRUCE BAIRNSFATHER

&

The story of Old Bill

The only biography of Cartoonist Bruce Bairnsfather the creator of Old Bill


   


IN SEARCH OF THE BETTER 'OLE - Front Cover



A SHORT EXTRACT

from almost 300 pages


Bruce Bairnsfather was born in Murree in India in 1873 to an Army family. Educated at Stratford Ho! (Rudyard Kipling's old school) he proved a poor student - more interested in scribbling caricatures of his masters than in passing his exams. Eventually he scraped through the Army entrance exam and enlisted in the Militia - which he hated. He then studied at commercial art school but re-enlisted with the Royal Warwickshires when war broke out in 1914. Serving in the mud and misery of the trenches of the infamous Plugstreet Wood he started drawing cartoons which realistically and yet humorously depicted the appalling conditions of the trenches. They were soon published as the series that came to be known as FRAGMENTS FROM FRANCE and they became an immediate roaring success. Soon his principal character, a phlegmatic, moustachio-ed soldier known as 'Old Bill', was immortalised in the famous situation of 'The Better 'Ole' and reproduced on pottery, on postcards, playing cards, in books, plays, films, in the UK, North America and indeed world-wide. There followed an extraordinary career. Yet Bairnsfather died in obscurity and relative poverty and although Gen Sir Ian Hamilton called him 'The Man Who Won the War' and he was courted by the secret service, he received no official award from his country for his evident genius in raising the morale of the Nation during the Great War.
  In this engrossing human story the Holts examine the life of this loveable man and go a long way towards redressing his lack of recognition.



 

 

Some of Bairnsfather's own books

 

 


 

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CONTENTS
  • Foreword

  • Chapter 1: Growing Up (1873-1905)

  • Chapter 2: Army, Art and Apprenticeship (1905-1914)

  • Chapter 3: WW1 Breaks Out; Genesis of a Career (1914-1915)

  • Chapter 4: The Birth of Old Bill & The Better 'Ole (1915-1916)

  • Chapter 5: Officer Cartoonist in Great Demand (1916-1917)

  • Chapter 6: Recognition on Stage and in Films (1917-1918)

  • Chapter 7: The First Trip to America (1918)

  • Chapter 8: Editor and Lord of the Manor (1918-1921)

  • Chapter 9: Husband, Playwright & Entrepreneur (1921-1927)

  • Chapter 10: The Moviemaker Causes a Scandal (1927-1928)

  • Chapter 11: The Threat of Divorce (1928-1934)

  • Chapter 12: Bankruptcy Looms (1932-1934)

  • Chapter 13: New Variations on an Old Theme (1934-1938)

  • Chapter 14: An Autobiography and The Last Film (1938-1941)

  • Chapter 15: World War Two with the Americans (1941-1945)

  • Chapter 16: Popularity on the Wane (1945-1950)

  • Chapter 17: The Twilight Years (1950-1959)

  • Chapter 18: Post Mortem

  • Chapter 19: Year 2000 Post Script

  • The Collectables: A Listing

  • Index


The Birth of Fragments From France
The Birth of Fragments From France
Lt Bairnsfather draws his first cartoons on the wall of his dugout under a cottage in the hamlet of St Yvon near Ypres in Belgium. Today there is a plaque commemorating Bairnsfather erected by the Holts on the cottage `which stands on the site.

Sheet of 'Fragments' Transfers
Sheet of 'Fragments' Transfers
The Staffordshire company, Grimwades, produced all manner of pottery items - complete tea services, vases, shaving mugs, bon bon dishes etc etc - decorated with the immortal cartooons of Bruce Bairnsfather depicting Old Bill and his pals, Bert and Alf, in the trenches.
 
Major and Mrs Holt's Battlefield Guide Books And Maps
Bairnsfather's most famous cartoon - The Better Ole Caption - 'They've Evidently Seen Me' Bairnsfather cartoon on his memorial plaque Section of the cover of 'Old Bill Stands By' - just before WW2