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'Coiffure in the Trenches "Keep yer 'ead still, or I'll 'ave yer blinkin' ear off', saucer, Bairnsfather Ware, 1919 (c)

Earthenware saucer made by Grimwades Limited, Stoke-on-Trent; from a tea service made up from different items of Bairnsfather Ware, ceramics featuring Captain Bruce Bairnsfather's artwork.

White earthenware saucer with overglaze, sepia transfer-printed decoration. In the centre, a Bruce Bairnsfather cartoon of a soldier, having his hair cut by another soldier in a trench, while a German shell whistles over their heads. The caption below reads, 'Coiffure in the Trenches "Keep yer 'ead still, or I'll 'ave yer blinkin' ear off'.

The underside bears the Grimwade's makers marks and transfer-printed mark. 'A Souvenir of the Great War commenced Aug 4th 1914 Armistice Nov 11th 1918 Peace signed June 28th 1919 "Bairnsfather Ware." Grimswade's Stoke on Trent "Old Bill"'.

Printed around the rim are illustrations of the detritus of a Western Front battlefield: German pickelhaube helmets, mice with tins of corned beef, forage cap and mess tins, interspersed with ten tufts of grass.

Charles Bruce Bairnsfather (1888-1959) served with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment on the Western Front during World War One (1914-1918). Before the war he had attempted to make his living as a commercial artist and he continued to sketch while at the Front.

Bairnsfather, commanding a machine gun section, participated in the 'Christmas Truce' of 24-25 December 1914. He later described the extraordinary events in No-Man's Land, remembering how he exchanged buttons with a German officer and how one of his gunners gave a German soldier a haircut during the truce.

The horror of trench warfare had a profound effect on the young infantry officer but it was the stoic good humour of his men that inspired most of the cartoons he produced. Encouraged by his work's popularity with officers and men alike, Bairnsfather submitted a cartoon entitled, 'Where Did That One Go To?', to the 'The Bystander' magazine and it was accepted and published. Compilations of his cartoons, notably the 'Fragments from France' series, followed. Bairnsfather's artwork was reproduced widely in various forms and became the subject of successful theatrical and film productions.

Invalided home, Bairnsfather became quite a celebrity but the British authorities seemed disinclined to promote the artist or his work. Bairnsfather was however in demand from Britain's allies and he went on to work with the French, Italian and United States armies.

NAM Accession Number

NAM. 1999-04-58-9


National Army Museum Copyright


National Army Museum, Study Collection

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