The Royal Regiment Of Fusiliers Museum (Warwickshire)

St John's House, Warwick, CV34 4NF

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Captain Bruce Bairnsfather 1887 - 1959

He was a man of extraordinary talent ranging from acting, playwright, film producer and author. His cartoons have appeared on plates, cups, car mascots and ashtrays all of which are now collectors pieces.

His characters have appeared on postcards, playing and cigarette cards, jigsaw puzzles and during World War II on the noses of bombers of the American Eighth Air Force for which he acted as official cartoonist.

Born in India the son of an Army family, Bruce's parents were an artistic couple, his mother a painter and his father a musician and composer. As soon as his fingers could hold a pencil Bruce had drawn pictures and this early talent developed through his schooldays in India and England. He grew up in the Warwickshire village of BISHOPTON, just north west of Stratford upon Avon.

He joined the third Militia Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in 1905 and subsequently transferred to his father's old Regiment The Cheshires for a short time. After formal training at Hassall Art School, and a variety of engineering jobs, he became an electrical salesman and part-time artist. He rejoined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in 1914 and was commissioned into the 3rd (Service Reserve) Battalion in September of that year.

He arrived in France as the Machine Gun Officer and experienced trench life and active service for the first time. After the battle of Ypres he was invalided back to England and it was here that his recollections of the trenches appeared in cartoon form with his best known character 'Old Bill'. From this point on his fame as a Cartoonist grew and he became the officially appointed Cartoonist in the Intelligence Department. This was his formal acceptance as an artist at last - with regular contributions to the Bystander, Bullets and Billets. 'Old Bill' featured in many theatre reviews at the time.

In the twenties and thirties he successfully acted and produced on stage and screen. In the early years of World War II Bruce was working for the Illustrated London News and Tatler and in 1942 he was appointed as an official cartoonist to the American Forces in Europe. This proved to be a profitable association. At the end of the war demand for his work declined and he eventually died in 1959. He is best remembered for his direct humour and inspired captions which found an instant response amongst soldiers in the trenches in World War I.