Digging into the past: a vintage poster with local roots

By - Tuesday 27th February, 2018

A local man who became a propaganda legend is remembered…

Image Crown Copyright. Used under Open Government Licence.

Wandle Park recently partnered with the Kenley Revival Project to host a World War Two poster-making workshop, using vintage posters from the period as inspiration. Well-known classic designs such as ‘Dig For Victory’, ‘Loose Lips Sink Ships’ and ‘The Walls Have Ears’ all featured.

Much fun was had by all – and some good new examples of posters were created by those who attended. What was most interesting, though, was what happened a few days later.

After posting some of the newly created images and some of the vintage ones on Facebook, I received a message from a page follower who was interested in obtaining a ‘Dig For Victory’ vintage poster. I was able to supply a link to the relevant website that the Kenley team had used to purchase theirs. The reason for this person’s interest in the ‘Dig for Victory’ poster was that the limb and foot in the poster belonged to her grandfather! Seeing the Facebook post had piqued their interest in obtaining one. What a coincidence…

Leslie George Mitchell.
Photo author’s own.

The gentleman modelling for the poster was Leslie George Mitchell of Morden, and he has a very proud Addiscombe-based daughter and granddaughter who have supplied an image of him and some other background information about his life.

Leslie was a commercial artist, who produced work for fashion and cosmetics designer Mary Quant and numerous other companies. As a child, he modelled for many different advertisers and publications, most notably products for Pears, the famous soap company. He was working in the building where the ‘Dig For Victory’ poster was being created, and was asked if he would model for the iconic boot-and-spade combination that has become so familiar as a defiant stand in wartime.

There was no way of knowing how long rationing would carry on for

The ‘Dig For Victory’ campaign was set up by the Ministry of Agriculture during World War Two to encourage people to grow their own food during a prolonged period of rationing. There was no way of knowing how long food shortages would continue for. So all over the UK, any open and usable space, be it a private garden or a public park, was transformed into an allotment. The poster was part of a massive propaganda campaign to make sure that people grew enough to eat and survive, and that morale was maintained because the population could, in essence, feed itself.

The image still has relevance today for me, as I’m very much part of the grow-your-own culture, and fully appreciate the time and resources that go into food production. In the very early days of citizen journalism, I used the slogan for a close-to-home article I wrote for The Croydon Citizen back in 2013. The victory for me is to achieve this, as there are multiple positive aspects for our borough if we did.

Andrew Dickinson

Andrew Dickinson

I'm a long term resident of Croydon and I'm lucky to live and work in the borough. As a schoolboy my proudest moments were playing representative football for Croydon where I would fight tooth and nail to win for the borough and contribute towards its sporting reputation. For 18 years I worked up in London and became distanced from the town. Now I've re-engaged with the place over the last 20 years and feel frustrated in finding a way to vent my passion for Croydon (as I'm too old to play football) so I'm always on the lookout for any new initiatives to bring positivity to the place. I live on Bramley Hill with my lovely family and I have an allotment locally. I'm a keen amateur in gardening, environmentalism, permaculture, photography and website design. I'm an oyster mushroom farmer, run a social enterprise called Green Croydon, I'm part of the Croydon Fairtrade steering group, part of the Croydon ReUse Organisation, current chair of Croydon Transition Town and a community gardener; I'm on the borough Food Programme, Parks and Social Enterprise steering groups and a community apple presser. I currently work for the council as an officer creating and promoting community events in the beautiful Wandle Park. I put on the Croydon Environmental Fair each year and the Summer of Love theme and festival was something I dreamed up. I inspired the 'I would make Croydon better by' theme. There's also the Give and Take events in Surrey Street. I started the monthly Arts, Crafts and Vintage market in Exchange Square. Formerly I was a Turf Projects trustee, a Croydon Radio presenter and part of the Old Town business association.Between all this, I write the occasional article for the Citizen. I support local artists and local musicians by enabling the space for them to create I also support local independent journalism.

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