A.R. Thomson

Thomson was the illustrator on the book Iolaire Forth from the Wilderness in 1937. Thomson was personally commissioned to do work for the MOI by Edwin Embleton. Sometimes spelt A.R. Thompson, he designed posters for the ‘Make your money provide the driving power’ campaign for the GPO in 1943. He was a member of the London Sketch Club in the 1970s, by which point he was also a member of the RA.

Information collated from: Anyamountofbooks.com, ‘Authors I-J’, http://www.anyamountofbooks.com/i-j.html, accessed October 3 2003; Questionnaire submitted by Royall, K. to Embleton, E., Royall, K., ‘Posters of the Second World War: The Fourth Arm of British Defence’, Unpublished M.A., University of Westminster, 1991, p.123; Anonymous, ‘GPO Follows up Appeal to Public’, Advertiser’s Weekly, Vol. 121, No. 1,579, August 26 1943, p.264; Farman, J., ‘galleryonthegreen.co.uk’, http://www.galleryonthegreen.co.uk/mainfiles/sketch/history.htm, accessed October 3 2003

Bert Thomas (b.1883; d.1966)

Bert Thomas was born in Newport, Wales to Job Thomas, a sculptor. When he left school he was apprenticed as a commercial metal engraver, specialising in the design of brass door plates. In the early 1900s Thomas moved to London and his work began to make his war in to magazines and newspapers, and he ‘quickly made his way to the front rank of humorous cartoonists’. His work was published in Punch Magazine, Evening News, London Opinion, The Graphic, and The Bystander. Married and living in Hatch End, Middlesex, prior to the First World War Thomas also designed advertisements and theatrical and commercial posters, which demonstrated a strong awareness of German design.

In the First World War Thomas designed the ‘Arf a Mo, Kaiser’ campaign for the Weekly Despatch tobacco fund campaign, through which he became known nationally, and raised £250,000 to provide troops with tobacco and cigarettes. Thomas designed posters during both world wars, mostly for the National Service and the railways in the Second. His two designs for ‘Is Your Journey Really Necessary?’ were used as posters by the Railway Executive Committee from 1942 to 1944, and occasionally as a newspaper advertisement. Thomas was a notable member of the London Sketch Club in the 1940s. He was one of many Punch Magazine artists influenced by Phil May. Thomas produced several cartoon books including Red and Black: A Book of Drawings (1928), Cartoons and Character Drawings (1936), Fun at the Seaside (1944), Fun on the Farm (1944), A Mixed Bag (1945), Fun in the Country (1946) and A Trip on a Barge (1947).

Information collated from: Darracott, J., and Loftus, B., Second World War Posters, 1972 (1981 edition), p.56; Spartacus Schoolnet, ‘Bert Thomas’, http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/ARTthomas.htm, accessed September 21 2003; Farman, J., ‘galleryonthegreen.co.uk’, http://www.galleryonthegreen.co.uk/mainfiles/sketch/history.htm, accessed October 3 2003

Fred Taylor (b.1875; d.1963)

Fred Taylor was born in London on March 22 1875, the son of William Taylor. Taylor studied briefly at Goldsmith’s College, London, where he won a gold medal for his posters, and a travelling scholarship to study in Italy. At some point working in the Waring and Gillow Studio, Taylor was a poster artist, illustrator, decorator and a watercolourist. Particularly noted as a poster artist from 1908 to the 1940s, and was regularly commissioned by the LNER, EMB and shipping companies. Taylor also exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy, and other provincial societies. Taylor’s designs frequently referred to architectural subjects.

During the Second World War, Taylor was employed on naval camouflage. He also executed commissions for London Transport, including ‘Back Room Boys’, where the underlying concept and use of central image with a surrounding border were probably taken from A S Hartrick’s series of lithographs on war work called Playing the Game, 1918, although ‘their finely balanced colouring and their superb draughtsmanship are peculiar to Taylor at his best’. Married to Florence R Sarg, with a son and a daughter, Taylor is also remembered for his decorating work, most notably for ceilings for the former Underwriter’s Room at Lloyds of London, and murals for Austin Reed’s red laquer room in 1930. He was also the author of a number of publications.

Information taken from: Livingston, A. and Livingston, I., Dictionary of Graphic Design and Designers, 1992, p.187, London Transport Museum Database, February 2000, quoting Riddell, 1994, Darracott, J. and Loftus, B., Second World War Posters, 1981 (1972), p.55


Talmadge joined the RAF in 1940, having previously studied package design under Milner Gray, and ‘was in control of the packaging of a firm of canners and packers of food products for the Home and Export Markets’. The RAF gave him the ‘opportunity to study various types of aircraft and their appearance on the ground and in the air’. His images tended to depict aerial combat, and he ‘has infused a dramatic sense’ into his pictures. Largely a paintings artist, he experimented in poster design, with his design ‘did YOU tell the enemy?’ although a ‘horror’ poster, imparted ‘its message simply and adequately, the test of any good poster’. Whilst in the RAF Talmadge was engaged in cartography and painting in water-colours and oils, and provided art classes for RAF and Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) personnel.

Information collated from: L.A.C. ‘Artists in Uniform: R.H. Talmadge’, Art and Industry, Vol. 35, No. 208, October 1943, pp.121-123.

R. Sturbelle

Worked at the Belgian Information Centre in New York, USA.

Information collated from: Minneapolis Public Library, ‘War Posters from the Kittleson Collection’, http://www.mplib.org/wpdb/index.asp?searchcontrib=Sturbelle,+R., last updated September 19 2003, accessed March 25 2004

P.A. Staynes

Staynes designed posters for Canadian Pacific in the 1930s. Described as ‘ingenious workmanship’, Staynes designed large scaled painted panel art for the first class public rooms of the Kenya and Uganda ships in 1952 for the British India Steam Naviagtion Company, depicting ‘the beasts of the forest in their natural surroundings, with a background showing the famous Murchison Falls in Uganda.

Information taken from: CPR Heritage, ‘Canadian Pacific to Japan & China’, http://www.cprheritage.com/photo_graphics/graphics/world/pages/a6031.htm, accessed October 4 2003; Merchantnavyofficers.com, ‘Kenya and Uganda’, http://www.merchantnavyofficers.com/KenUg.html, accessed October 4 2003.

Walter E. Spradbery (b.1889; d.1969)

Walter Spradbery was born in East Dulwich, London on March 28 1889. He studied at Walthamstow Art School, and then worked as an art teacher. He also worked as an art teacher, exhibiting at the Royal Academy, a linocut artist, and a poster designer, mainly for London Transport. Spradbery was a lifelong pacifist, serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps in the First World War, whilst an official war artist, and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for leading a stretcher party under fire. In 1929 Spradbery married Dorothy D’Orsay. Spradbery’s life story appeared in Uphill (published by the Stamford Hill Boys’ and Girls’ clubs) in late 1943. The article linked his poster work with the work he did for youth clubs. ‘The writer describes how his great love of trees has influenced all his work. He attributes it to the fact that Spradbery has lived since childhood on the fringes of Epping Forest’. In 1944, Spradbery designed his last series for London Transport ‘The Proud City’, for which he chose the quotations. Art and Industry noted that his work would have already been known ‘to all connoisseurs of good commercial art, through his characteristic posters for the Southern and London North Eastern Railways’. Spradbery died on December 31 1969, and a memorial exhibition of his work was held at the William Morris Gallery, London, in 1970.

Information taken from: Darracott, J. and Loftus, B., Second World War Posters, 1981 (1972), p.54, ‘Life-Story of W.E.Spradbery’, Advertiser’s Weekly, December 9 1943, p.258, ‘A New L.P.T.B. Poster Series “The Proud City”‘, Art and Industry, Vol. 38, No.224, February 1945, pp.57-58, London Transport Museum Database, February 2000, taken from Riddell, 1994

Alfred Sindall

The following books are all part of the “Air Adventure Series” by A. & C. Black, Ltd., issued in Britain in the 1930s: Jack Heming – The Desert Air Raider; Jack Heming – The Air Dope Hunters; Jack Heming – The Air Spies; John Grant – The Lion of the Frontier; M.E. Miles – Sea-Plane Base; Dorothy Carter – Flying Dawn. Each book contained four black and white plates by Alfred Sindall, ‘a very familiar name to Biggles collectors’. For example, Sindall illustrated the fictional book Captain WE Biggles Defies the Swastika in 1950. A ‘master craftsman of the adventure comic strip’ by the 1960s, designing ‘Tug Transom’ for the UK’s Daily Sketch.

Information collated from: Anderson, D., Narnia Books, Canada, Message posted, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CBandM/message/64, written May 7 2000, accessed October 4 2003; Pioneer Books, ‘Fair List 1′, http://www.pioneerbooks.com.au/lists/F1.html, accessed October 4 2003; Original-cartoon-art.com, ‘Art by Alfred Sindall’, http://original-cartoon-art.com/html/artists/sindall.htm, accessed October 4 2003

Ellis Silas (b.1883; d.1972)

Silas began his artistic career in his fathers studio initially designing furnishing fabrics and interior décor. He trained in the studio of Walter Sickert. With a main interest in marine art, he painted English coastal towns before sailing for Australia in 1907. After a brief period in Australia, he returned to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force at the outbreak of war in 1914. He fought at Anzio and was later commissioned as an official War Artist. He fought with the 16th Batillion on Pope’s Hill at ANZAC Cove in the First World War, and painted images of soldiers on roll call. He returned to England in 1925, where he remained working until his death. During the interwar years Silas held several exhibitions in London, including a private audience with the King, illustrated the book Honour and the Foreign Legion in 1927, and later set off for Papua New Guinea ‘where he probably produced his finest work. His delicate studies of native life were his trademark’. Silas was employed as a propaganda artist in an aircraft factory in the Second World War, described as ‘an artist who has travelled widely and has exhibited at the Royal Academy and other British and International exhibitions’, producing ‘a very fine collection of posters typical of the age’. He continued to work post-war, including several pictures of Weymouth painted in 1958. A watercolour painter who specialised in marine subjects, several of his pictures are currently held in the National Maritime Museum.

Information collated from: Pictorialsonline.net, ‘Pictorials – Ellis Silas’, http://www.pictorialsonline.net/artists/artistinfofull.asp?ID=17, accessed October 4 2003.
National Maritime Museum, ‘HMS “Wave” Ashore at St Ives, 1952′, http://www.nmm.ac.uk/mag/pages/mnuExplore/PaintingDetail.cfm?letter=H&ID=BH…, accessed October 4 2003; Anzacday.org, ‘ANZAC Cove’, http://www.anzacday.org.uk/spirit/hero/chp07.html, accessed October 4 2003; Contendo, W.D., ‘The FictionMags Index’, http://users.ev1.net/~homeville/fictionmag/t156.htm, accessed October 4 2003; Silas, E., ‘The Poster in the Factory’, Art and Industry, Vol. 38, No. 228, June 1945, pp.181-184; Pictorials Online, ‘Pictorials’, http://www.pictorialsonline.net/products/results.asp?SBA=true&ArtistSL=Ellis%20Silas, accessed October 4 2003; Luxury Liners of the Past, ‘Postcard Artists’, http://www.geocites.com/luxury_liners/Artists.html, accessed October 3 2003


Author of Industrial Publicity, and a regular industrial propaganda critique column in Advertiser’s Weekly in the later war years.

Information collated from: Shaw, C.K. Industrial Publicity, 1944.


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