The Bairnsfather Omnibus
Captain Bruce Bairnsfather, arguably the greatest cartoonist of the Great War, went to his grave largely unmourned by a nation which had forgotten the huge debt it owed this talented and singular man. But across the land many an old soldier, the veterans of that terrible carnage on the Western Front, remembered and shed a tear for their favourite, their ‘officer cartoonist’, the creator of Old Bill and ‘Fragments from France’, the man who got them through it with a heart full of mirth, a chuckle and a laugh, ‘the man who won the war’. For Bairnsfather had been through what they had been through, seen what they had seen, experienced what they had experienced. He had shared it all with the stout-hearted British Tommies, who, smothered in mud, flies and lice, in trenches built with the decomposing bodies of the dead, desperate to come to terms with the appalling conditions, the illness, the squalor, the disease, and the constant fear of death, needed something to pull their minds away from the brutal reality of that grim slaughter. It was Bairnsfather who gave it to them. Drawing on their shared experiences, he worked his magic with pencil and pen, brush and ink, and brought smiles to the faces of that doomed generation; once flushed with the bloom of youth, made sterile, grey and pallid by the horrors of the war of attrition being waged by their superiors.Bairnsfather was a man of his time, arguably in the right place at the right time with a fateful combination of circumstances which very rarely occur. He emerged as the soldiers’ favourite, entrusted by them with the merriment of their souls, souls pounded and battered by the constant crash of shells and the rat-tat-tat of machine guns which sliced through their ranks like hot knives through butter. Here, for the first time since they were printed in 1916 and 1919, are Bairnsfather’s own autobiographies, ‘Bullets & Billets’ and ‘From Mud to Mufti’, telling his story in his own inimitable style. Together with his illustrations, a comprehensive biography, maps, facts and figures, and a glossary, the book provides a unique insight into the way this ‘officer cartoonist’ perceived the war, his war, and how he got through it doing what he did best, putting a smile on the face of the good old British Tommy.
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