25th March 1926

Publisher and ad-man Sir Hedley Le Bas dies

The Guardian reported the death of Sir Hedley Le Bas, an advertising executive and director of the Caxton Publishing Company, who had met his end in a Reigate nursing home after never fully recovering from an operation. He had been ill since the previous Sunday.

Le Bas’ memorable slogan

Although his name is largely forgotten, one piece of his work has gone down in history: the phrase “Your Country Needs You”, from which Britain hung the whole of its First World War recruitment drive before introducing conscription in 1916. The poster had been through several variations during its development, and the final layout was put together by Alfred Leete. It first appeared on the cover of London Opinion magazine on 5 September 1914, before being spun off as a stand-alone poster.

Bas had been born in Jersey on 19 May 1868 and joined the 15th Hussars aged 18, following which he moved to Manchester and, aged 31, founded the Caxton Publishing Company and Caxton Advertising Agency.

By the outbreak of war, Bas was already a golfing buddy of the Secretary of State for War, JEB Seely, so it was no great surprise that he should be asked to work on an advertising campaign to increase recruitment. The most successful poster that he and his team worked on was “Your Country Needs You”, below a picture of Lord Kitchener, who was pointing out of the picture, directly towards the viewer.

In the second year of the war, they followed up with a more sentimental poster, designed to shame those who had not yet volunteered. “Daddy, what did you do in the Great War?” was the slogan this time, showing a pensive man sitting in an armchair with his daughter on his lap. This received criticism in some quarters, with Robert Smillie, co-founder of the Scottish Labour Party, suggesting that the man’s reply should have been “I tried to stop the bloody thing, my child”.


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