Country Life

The man who loved drawing, dogs and dragons

IT has been said that Alfred Leete’s striking ‘Your country needs you’ image of Lord Kitchener entreating men to join the British Army and fight in the First World War has entered our DNA. Certainly, if the field marshal’s moustache were to grow like Pinocchio’s nose every time a cartoonist parodied the 1914 poster, we would already be contending with a marvel the length of Hadrian’s Wall. Harold Macmillan, David Cameron and Boris Johnson are only a few of the prime ministers to have fallen victim to the Kitchener treatment. Even sci-fi crusaders have got in on the game, with a gleaming Darth Vader stepping into Kitchener’s shoes in a Star Wars ‘Your empire needs you’ billboard.

‘Leete’s take on the canine fugitive has all the drama of a Baroque painting’

Yet, curiously enough, the creator of this wartime advertisement in September 1914, apparently after the editor had vetoed another cartoonist’s efforts. The magazine wanted something topical and recruitment was on everyone’s lips. Enter Leete, already an established contributor, who was rarely photographed without a pipe or cigarette in his mouth. Eagle-eyed researchers Martyn Thatcher and Anthony Quinn have suggested in their book about the image that the iconic pointing finger may have been pinched from a cigarette advert. Either way, it proved a hit and soon took on a life of its own.

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