Old Bill and the Victory Loan campaign, 1919

At the end of the First World War Britain was heavily in debt, and introduced the sale of Victory Loan bonds as a means of borrowing money. On 12 June 1919 King George V issued a statement, calling for "unstinted support" for the campaign, to ensure a "solid financial foundation" for the "security of my realm and prosperity of my people." The target to be raised was £1,000,000,000 and the campaign, which ran for four weeks from 12 June to 12 July 1919 was heavily promoted in the press. At the huge Peace Night rally in Trafalgar Square on 19 July 1919, Nelson's Column was decorated with Victory Loan posters.

Bruce Bairnsfather "did his bit" to help promote the campaign. He was filmed drawing Old Bill who was saying "If yer knows of a better loan, go to it!" for one of the twice-weekly Pathe Gazette news films shown in cinemas throughout the country.  'Old Bill's Message' featured in Pathe Gazette No. 576, released on 30 June 1919.

The original Pathe Gazette footage, titled 'Old Bill's Message' can be viewed on the British Pathe archive http://www.britishpathe.com/video/old-bills-message-aka-political-cartoon-lloyd . British Pathe seem to be confused about the subject being drawn - as they currently give a summary of the film as "cartoon of Prime Minister Lloyd George drawn by artist Bruce Bairnsfather" despite the original title 'Old Bill's Message' showing at the start of the clip. 

Bruce Bairnsfather also drew a special cartoon of Old Bill in a Victory Loan "better 'ole," persuading a hesitant citizen "If you knows of a better loan go to it." This cartoon was published in the Daily Express on 28 June 1919 with the announcement that BB's original drawing was to be 'auctioned' off to the highest bidder among Daily Express readers, the proceeds being "invested in Victory Loan." Readers had until first post on Monday, 7 July 1919 to send in their bids. The identity of the winning bidder is not known.  

Bruce Bairnsfather also wrote an article titled 'Old Bill's Straight Talk to the British Public' - in which Old Bill and Bert discuss the Victory Loan campaign, concluding with Old Bill saying he would "tell the public that the soldiers did their bit for the great war when the civvies asked them; now it was the soldier's turn to ask the civvies what they're going to do for the great Peace - and I'm going to speak till I've no voice left in Trafalgar Square, after banking my own little bit into Victory Loan."

King George V's statement to the British public, and advertisements explaining and promoting the Victory Loan are reproduced below. Click on any of the pictures to see a larger image.