Guest post: Second World War posters in the TUC Library

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Guest post from Jenni Rockliff, volunteer working on the poster collections:

I am finally approaching the end of my task to list the boxes of World War Two posters held in the TUC Library Collections. In the final batch of posters, I came across an Arabic version of a poster I had already listed. This poster, with the title ‘One by one, his legs will be broken’, has a striking image of a spider, with the face of Adolf Hitler, sprawled across Europe and North Africa.


Ships, tanks and aircraft are depicted slicing through the legs of the spider, loosening the spider’s grip on occupied countries. The image is almost entirely in 3 colours, oranges, black and white, which create a dramatic effect in colours which are often seen as ‘danger’ colours in nature. The space above the earth on the right hand side of the poster is black, while the left hand side of the poster has a bright white ‘sky’, perhaps to indicate the ‘dawn’ of a brighter era. The spider is also a creature which many people have an instinctive dislike of and is a creature commonly used in propaganda along with other creatures such as rats.

The creator of this artwork was Kimon Evan Marengo who signed his works with his initials and was, therefore, commonly known as ‘KEM’. Marengo is reported to have produced over 3,000 propaganda artworks for the British Ministry of Information during World War 2 including this image.

Marengo was born in 1904 in Zifta, Egypt and grew up in Alexandria. His father was a Greek Cotton merchant. As a young man, between 1923 to 1931, he edited and produced work, including cartoons and caricatures, for his weekly political and satirical magazine, Maalesh (translated as ‘Sorry’ or ‘Oh well, never mind’).

From 1929 to 1931, Marengo studied at the Ecole Libre des Sciences Politiques (Paris Institute of Political Studies). During the 1930’s he produced cartoons for a number of French and international newspapers and publications, including British newspapers such as the Daily Herald and the Daily Telegraph. In 1939 Marengo went to Oxford University to study for a degree, but due to the start of the war he had to stop his studies.

During the war Marengo not only created propaganda artwork but acted as political adviser on the Middle East for the British Foreign Office, working in the French and North African sections of the Political Warfare Executive (PWE), where he ran what was known as “the Kem Unit.” He wrote and illustrated eight books for the Ministry of Information, some of which appeared in European languages and in three forms of Arabic (classical, Moghrabi, and Ladino – the Hebrew script for Moroccan Jews) and Farsi. He also worked as a British and American war correspondent.
Following the war Marengo returned to study on an accelerated BA programme at Exeter College, Oxford and graduated in 1946. He continued to produce satirical and political cartoons including one for The Spectator in 1966 entitled ‘TUC of War’ which can be seen on the Cartoon Museum web site:
http://www.cartoons.ac.uk/browse/cartoon_item/artist=Kem%20[Kimon%20Evan%20Marengo]

He married Una O’Connor in 1954 and had two children, Richard and Alexander. He died in London on 4th November 1988.
More information on KEM can be found on the Cartoon Museum web site:
http://www.cartoons.ac.uk/artists/kimon-evanmarengo/biography

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