'Keep Calm and Carry On' was the third in a series of Government-approved World War II posters to keep up morale amongst the people. The message was said to be directly from King George VI, the posters were white text on a red background with the only image being King George's crown. The poster was created by an anonymous civil servant and he used his own font, an exact match still does not exist.
The first two posters, "Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution will Bring Us Victory" and "Freedom is in Peril" were widely distributed and printed, however the Keep Calm version was printed but never circulated as it was only intended for distribution once invasion was imminent.
At the end of the war, all the posters were pulped. It is thought that only two original copies of the 'Keep Calm' versions are still in existence.
In the year 2000, Stuart and Mary Manley who run a bookshop in Northumberland came across one of the original prints. They had it framed near their till and quickly had countless customers asking for prints. And so the Keep Calm and Carry on poster went into production.
All the above is good. All the above I can deal with. What pains me is that George VI must be turning in his grave knowing that his most sincere and solemn message at the time has now been replicated on every bit of Chinese-import tat there is going.
The general consensus is that the poster is now out of copyright which means that any Tom, Dick or Harry can reproduce it for his own financial gain. The poster supposedly strikes a chord with 'impoverished' Britain and reminds us to swallow our worries and keep on consuming until the recession has passed. Personally I think it's a bit insulting to those who went through World War II that we are comparing our current situation to theirs.
There is even now www.keepcalmandcarryon.com who have registered the slogan as their trademark and have transformed it into all manner of tat for your home and for gifts Behold
There is also a program called the 'Keep Calm-o-matic' on which you can replace the original words with words relating directly to your mates which as you can imagine, produced some hilarious results such as these.
Is it just me or is this turning into a bit of a mockery of war memorabilia?
Writer, blogger and director of Smoking Gun Vintage