The Ministry of Information was formed by the British Government as the department responsible for publicity and propaganda during the Second World War. In late 1939 after the outbreak of the war, the MOI was appointed by the British Government to design a number ofmorale boosting posters that would be displayed across the British Isles during the testing times that lay ahead.
With a bold coloured background, the posters were required to be similar in style and feature the symbolic crown of King George VI along with a simple yet effective font. The first two posters, ‘Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution will Bring Us Victory’ and ‘Freedom is in Peril’ were produced by His Majesty’s Stationery Office (HMSO).
These two were posted on public transport, in shop windows, upon notice boards and hoardings across Britain. The third and final poster of the set was again very straightforward and to the point - it simply read ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’. The plan in place for this poster was to issue it only upon the invasion of Britain by Germany. As this never happened, the poster was never officially seen by the public.
It is believed that most of the Keep Calm posters were destroyed and reduced to a pulp at the end of the war in 1945. However, nearly 60 years later, a bookseller from Barter Books stumbled across a copy hidden amongst a pile of dusty old books bought from an auction. A small number also remain in the National Archives and the Imperial War Museum in London, and a further 15 were discovered in the BBC's Antiques Roadshow to have been given to Moragh Turnbull, from Cupar, Fife, by her father William, who served as a member of the Royal Observer Corps.
Sadly no record remains of the unknown Civil Servant who originally came up with the simple and quintessential Britishness of the Keep Calm and Carry On message. However, it is wonderful to think that all these years later people still find it so appealing and reassuring in our modern times.