Why M.C.A.?: German Prisoners of War, World War One, before Y.M.C.A. Hut


This original ink-and-wash cartoon from World War I by Bruce Bairnsfather (1888-1959) depicts German prisoners of war lounging before a hut with a YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) sign. The cartoon is on a grey board. The witty holograph caption is on the back. Bairnsfather was a British army officer who was trained as an artist; while serving on the Western front in 1914-15, he made drawings of war scenes that were published in British magazines. He is best known as the creator of “Old Bill,” a fictional character who came to symbolize the stoic and practical British private soldier. The cartoon is from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection at the Brown University Library, the foremost American collection devoted to the history and iconography of soldiers and soldiering, and one of the world’s largest collections devoted to the study of military and naval uniforms.

Last updated: November 14, 2017