- This defines “ Heath Robinson” in the dictionary.
Born in Finsbury Park, London, in 1872, Robinson started his career illustrating books such as ‘The Water Babies’, and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, but in World War I, he was stuck by the ridiculousness of war, and used his satirical humour to mock the enemy add ease to the gloomy wartime atmosphere. Robinson gently portrayed humour in the battlefield in WWI with the facial expressions and body language of soldiers in his cartoons. One in particular depicts a German soldier and a British soldier, staring at each other after digging underground tunnels until they met in the middle. Robinson struggled with the mass destruction of WWII, and featured less of the German enemies, as he felt that the Nazis would be inappropriate to depict in a satirical manner. Instead he focused on ‘the Great British spirit’ and commonly depicted communities coming together to help win the war. It was no wonder why his satirical drawing were so popular, especially with soldiers on the front line.
The irony is how these complicated contraptions, in which Robison depicted humorously were very significant to World War II. Due to GCHQ withholding information of the work that took place in Bletchley park, importantly the Enigma Machine: it was in fact a ‘complicated contraption’ that won the war.
So this Remembrance Day we remember the selfless people who died for our country, but may we also remember Heath Robinson, who boosted the morale in wartime though his marvelous satirical cartoons.
If you are interested in seeing his work for yourself, and to have a good chuckle, why not pop down to the newly opened Heath Robinson Museum in Pinner – funded by the National Lottery trust. It showcases his illustrations, and paintings, and the temporary exhibition is currently exhibiting ’Heath Robinson in War’- his satirical cartoons of the World Wars.