Copyright: John Frost Newspapers
The newspaper: Daily Mirror
The date: September 4th 1939
The news event: WWII begins
What you see
This 'WANTED' poster presents Adolf Hitler as a 'reckless criminal ... wanted - dead or alive'.
The front page
The newspaper appeared on the 4th September 1939, just one day after Britain and France declared war on Germany. The British press had the difficult task of reporting the news of war to its readers. Using a 'Wanted' poster layout, the journalist cast the fascist dictator as a classic Wild West criminal. This was powerful propaganda. The intention was to present Hitler as the common enemy, and to strengthen the resolve of the country against him. This format has been popular with newspapers ever since, and was used by The Times to cover the global search for Osama Bin Laden in 2001.
Sir William Connor (1909-1967) was a left wing journalist who wrote a regular column for over thirty years for The Daily Mirror. His pen name was 'Cassandra', a name taken from the tragic character in Greek mythology who was given the gift of prophecy by Apollo but was then cursed so that no one would ever believe her. Connor’s writings were either bitter attacks on people and events or personal accounts of his everyday life and thoughts.
Just like all traditional ‘wanted’ posters, the mug shots of the ‘criminal’ are plastered across the top of the page. Larger fonts are used to list the crimes of which Hitler was accused. Although much of the message is serious, the journalists and designers were also using humour to raise the morale of their readers: the line underneath one of the photographs reads ‘Can be recognised full face by habitual scowl. Rarely smiles. Talks rapidly, and when angered screams like a child.’ This deliberately exaggerated tone, and the mixture of serious and tongue-in-cheek language, is a classic example of British war time propaganda.