Writers' Propaganda Bureau, The [Radio Scotland]

Episodes

First
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
20150923
20150923

2015092320160104 (RS)

The first rule of war propaganda bureau is that you don't talk about war propaganda bureau. A dream team of the greatest authors of the day were secretly called up to the WW1 war effort in 1914 - names like Arthur Conan Doyle, J. M. Barrie - and later John Buchan. They were to write propaganda pieces for the government while pretending it was all their own idea. You'd think the government would have called up their fictional creations: Sherlock Holmes, Peter Pan, Richard Hannay... but it wanted them to write worthy pamphlets on German barbarism and 'why we fight' to win over American opinion-formers and make sure the USA didn't back Germany in the war. Meanwhile the less-famous names at the bureau pumped out a steady stream of jingoism, atrocity and 'Beastly Hun' pamphlets, plus cartoons, post-cards and even children's colouring-books and ink blotters in the same vein. Against this backdrop, the themes of the bureau bled into the war-time fiction of the stars, so it's hard to see where government propaganda leaves off and personal sentiment starts. What happened when the authors took up their pens and went to war? Writer Val McDermid finds out.

2015092320150927 (RS)

Val McDermid finds out how Britain's writers contributed during the First World War.

The first rule of war propaganda bureau is that you don't talk about war propaganda bureau. A dream team of the greatest authors of the day were secretly called up to the WW1 war effort in 1914 - names like Arthur Conan Doyle, J. M. Barrie - and later John Buchan. They were to write propaganda pieces for the government while pretending it was all their own idea. You'd think the government would have called up their fictional creations: Sherlock Holmes, Peter Pan, Richard Hannay... but it wanted them to write worthy pamphlets on German barbarism and 'why we fight' to win over American opinion-formers and make sure the USA didn't back Germany in the war. Meanwhile the less-famous names at the bureau pumped out a steady stream of jingoism, atrocity and 'Beastly Hun' pamphlets, plus cartoons, post-cards and even children's colouring-books and ink blotters in the same vein. Against this backdrop, the themes of the bureau bled into the war-time fiction of the stars, so it's hard to see where government propaganda leaves off and personal sentiment starts. What happened when the authors took up their pens and went to war? Writer Val McDermid finds out.