In Search of the Better 'Ole
A Biography of Capt Bruce Bairnsfather including a listing of his works and collectables.
Please note - this is the back cover of the hardback edition above of which only a few copies remain
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.
Below you will find two of the 150 illustrations in the book. These include pictures of many of the collectables which today fetch considerable prices in antique shops and auctions. Any serious collector should not be without this book.
The Birth of Fragments From France
On the left, 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
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.
To the right is a sheet of transfers used by Grimwades.
If you would like some more details about Bairnsfather's career in pictures please click here