THE DEVIL FISH. - an original printed appearance of this Second World War cartoon featuring Winston S. Churchill from the 29 November 1939 edition of the magazine Punch, or The London Charivari
London: Punch, 1939. This original printed appearance of a Punch cartoon featuring Winston S. Churchill comes from the personal collection of Gary L. Stiles, author of Churchill in Punch (Unicorn Publishing Group, 2022). His book is the first ever effort to definitively catalog, describe, and contextualize all of the many Punch cartoons featuring Churchill.
This cartoon titled "THE DEVIL FISH." appeared thus on p.593 of the 29 November 1939 issue of Punch. The artist is Bernard Partridge. The cartoon is captioned "(With Mr. Punch's best wishes to the First Lord of the Admiralty on his sixty-fifth birthday.)" Churchill had spent nearly the entirety of the 1930s in the political wilderness, out of power, out of favor, and frequently at odds with both his own Conservative Party and prevailing public sentiment. Then came the terrible vindication of the outbreak of the Second World War. On 3 September 1939 Churchill was restored to the Cabinet, appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, reprising the role he had played during the First World War. Churchill had been - including in the pages of Punch - ridiculed and rejected. Now he was looked upon as a critical and respected national leader. This cartoon, published the day before Churchill's birthday, is unequivocally supportive, depicting Churchill hacking away with a naval cutlass at the seaborne threats - among them "U-BOATS" and "MINES" Britain faced from Nazi Germany, threatening the island nation's critical supply lines.
Punch or The London Charivari began featuring Churchill cartoons in 1900, when his political career was just beginning. That political career would last two thirds of a century, see him occupy Cabinet office during each of the first six decades of the twentieth century, carry him twice to the premiership and, further still, into the annals of history as a preeminent statesman. And throughout that time, Punch satirized Churchill in cartoons – more than 600 of them, the work of more than 50 different artists.
It was a near-perfect relationship between satirists and subject. That Churchill was distinctive in both persona and physical appearance helped make him easy to caricature. To his persona and appearance he added myriad additional satirical temptations, not just props, like his cigars, siren suits, V-sign, and hats, but also a variety of ancillary avocations and vocations, like polo, painting, brick-laying, and writing. All these were skewered as well.
Some Punch cartoons were laudatory, some critical, and many humorous, like the man himself. Nearly always, Churchill was distinctly recognizable, a larger-than-life character whose presence caricature served only to magnify. Item #007162