Click on any cover to see cartoons 

from that volume

On 5th January 1916 The Bystander published an advertisement announcing that their Bairnsfather book Fragments from France—described as “48 pages of screaming comicality” - would be on sale shortly. Three weeks later, in the last week of January, Fragments from France appeared in bookstalls across England, and was an instant hit. The book included Bruce Bairnsfather’s cartoons published to date, a Foreword by the Editor of The Bystander, who paid tribute to BB. In a full page advertisement on 26th January, The Bystander stated “Letters we have received by the score from officers and men on active service in all the theatres, assure us that nothing since the war began presents the actual facts and feelings of the fighting men so realistically or so humorously as do these sketches by one of themselves….To get an immediate copy of Fragments from France is a duty you owe to yourself. No dug-out, billet or mess room will be complete without it. And if you ever feel in a generous mood towards the enemy, cheer him up too by hurling a copy over to his trenches. It will prove a high explosive of mirth, even to him.”

Demand for Fragments from France was such

that within a month of publication, the first and second editions of the book were “absolutely sold out”, the third edition was “nearly sold out” and a fourth and fifth edition were “in course of preparation.” In all, twelve editions of the first volume of Fragments from France were produced—each identifiable by the inclusion of the edition number on the inside title page, and a variety of different coloured covers.

By the middle of March 1916, The Bystander was quoting 150,000 copies of Fragments from France as having been sold, and by the end of that month this had risen to 200,000.

Although by this point the publishers of The Bystander were also selling a series of twelve coloured Fragments from France prints, in May 1916 the demand for higher quality reproductions of some of the more popular Bairnsfather cartoons was met, when the publishers issued an Edition De Luxe of Fragments from France, containing thirty-two “of the favourite pictures, superbly mounted and engraved on Tinted Art paper (with several new ones not in the first volume).”

Priced at five shillings, and including “four special

Priced at five shillings, and including “four special plates in photogravure” the Edition De Luxe was advertised as being a “strictly limited” edition, although it has never been established how many copies were actually produced.

In June 1916, in the wake of the huge success of the first volume, The Bystander announced that “ More Fragments from France—Vol. II of the inimitable Bairnsfather series” would be on sale later that week. Shortly afterwards, on 1st July, the Bystander’s sister paper The Graphic highlighted Bairnsfather’s immense popularity by devoting a full page to “How London Bookstall Managers Celebrated Fragments Day”, featuring photographs of seven London branches of W.H. Smith swamped by Bairnsfather displays and copies of Fragments from France Vol. II, on the first day it went on sale.

Still More Fragments from France No. 3 was published in January 1917. Once again The Bystander announced the new volume with another half-page advertisement featuring a facsimile of the front cover, this time including a rhyme:

“What accounts for all this cheerfulness everywhere?

The weather’s incredibly beastly.

The household bills are assuming gigantic proportions.

The sugar-mines (or wherever it is sugar comes from) have shut down.

We haven’t seen a Zep. burnt for weeks and weeks.

Yet everybody’s smiling.

People in the Tubes go four stations beyond their destination.

People in the street cannon madly into one another; and, instead of swearing, grin.

People indoors let the fire go out.

People in the trenches pay absolutely no attention to the arrival of the Rum Ration.

I’ll let you into the secret.


And everybody’s reading it.

And laughing over it.

And buying it.

How truly the poet sings:-

The Kaiser wastes his precious breath

In prayer and strafin’:

‘Tis Bairnsfather will be the death

Of us, by laughin!”


The fourth volume of Fragments from France appeared in bookstalls in the last week of August 1917,  and the advertisements for it were full of incredible statistics revealing just how popular the series had been: “Already nearly two million copies of the Fragments have been sold. These must have been read, at a low estimate, by fifty million people....printing machines have been printing Fragments, without ever stopping, for the last eighteen months. Of each volume 60,000 copies have gone to the Dominions, Colonies and America.”

Fragments from France Number Four completed a set, and “a binding case to take all four volumes” could be obtained from the Publisher, priced at two shillings and fourpence, post free.

Fragments from France No. 5 was published in July 1918, almost a year after its predecessor.

Having devoted half page advertisements to the previous four volumes, it is interesting to note that

Having devoted half page advertisements to the

Having devoted half page advertisements to the previous four volumes, it is interesting to note that The Bystander did not make any mention whatsoever of the release of this latest edition, or of Fragments from All the Fronts No. 6, which was published in November 1918 and featured the cartoons drawn by BB following his visits to the French, Italian and American fronts.

The penultimate volume of Fragments from France was the first to be issued since the end of the war. Fragments from France Number Seven went on sale in April 1919 and again it’s appearance received little mention in The Bystander. “Number Seven should not be missed” it said—”in any case you can’t miss it’s cover, and once you’ve seen that you will want to see further.” The drawing used on the cover—”How Old Bill Escaped Being Shot in August 1914” - is now in the possession of the Imperial War Museum.

Fragments Away from France No. 8, the last volume of BB’s cartoons to be published by The Bystander, made it’s way to bookstores quietly and unannounced towards the end of 1919. By the time it appeared, BB had signed a new contract

with the publishers of The Bystander, and become Editor of his own weekly Fragments magazine, which would prove another huge hit.

Various editions of Fragments from France were also published in America (by G.P. Putnam), Canada (by William Briggs) and Australia (by Sands & McDougall Pty Ltd).


































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