We are all facing the restrictions and social distancing around the Covid -19 challenge. As a reminder for myself, I decided to grab onto the “Keep Calm and Carry On” British slogan. After feeling like this was the mantra for me, I discovered some fascinating information about “Keep Calm and Carry On” as I researched the history of the famous phrase.
As we are diligently trying to Keep Calm and Carry On let’s take a trip in the ‘Way Back Machine’ ala Mr. Peabody and his boy, Sherman (from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon hit) to England just as WWII is looming in the summer of 1939. The Ministry of Information has been given the task of raising morale and inspiring public support for the war. There were three posters designed:
- Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory
- Freedom Is in Peril / Defend It With All Your Might
- Keep Calm and Carry On
Between August 23rd and September 3rd of 1939 2.45 million of the Keep Calm and Carry On posters were printed. Only a handful was ever used. The bulk of the posters were destroyed at the end of the war in 1945.
Today, we only know of 16 of the original posters still “Carryin’ On.” One was found 60 years later by Stuart and Mary Manley, co-owners of Barter Books, Ltd. in Northumberland. The other 15 showed up on the BBC version of Antiques Roadshow in February of 2012.
So what happened? Why weren’t they used? These two links have all the details: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keep_Calm_and_Carry_On
Suffice it to say that there were too many opinions presented at once. There were complaints about the costs. There were arguments about the content. Too many politicians in the mix — We can all relate to that, can’t we?
Winston Churchill managed to send out 14 million leaflets in June of 1941. He used the phrases Stand Firm and Carry On but not together or even in the same sentence. This leaflet started with the phrase: “If invasion comes…” and included 14 questions and answers around ‘practical matters’ of the invasion. By then he had enough pull to avoid the flurry of opinions from a committee.
As we know, Britain made it through the war. There was an immense amount of cooperation, collaboration, and courage expressed by their citizens — everything from the Black Outs to rationing, to sending your children to live with strangers for their safety, and too many other challenges to mention.
I agree with France’s current President Macron: “We are at war — in a health war” and we have a choice as to how we react to the hardships and restrictions. Let’s all do our best to Keep Calm and Carry On
Shell Tain, the Untangler