BRITAIN'S EFFORT : drawings by Lancelot Speed

This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: IWM 514).


Cartoon of the British military and industrial contribution to the Western Front up to the end of 1917.

The film starts with a cartoonist drawing figures which then animate themselves. The Kaiser sharpens a knife to carve up the world, the figures "1914" flying from the sparks. He and Franz Josef gloat over a pile of weapons. While John Bull sleeps in England the two monarchs, as vampire bats, plot to seize Serbia as a path to India, and also Belgium. At this Britannia wakes John Bull and blows her battle horn. Across the world, in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India and Canada armed men arise. In Britain an aristocrat, a farmer, a clerk, a fisherman, a miner and a railwayman become soldiers, a single figure representing the army of 1914. A Canadian encouraged by a moose, an Australian with a kangaroo, a South African with a springbok, a New Zealander with a kiwi and an Indian with an elephant join in. By 1918, shown as single soldiers, the South African and Indian forces on the Western Front are as large as the British force of 1914, these are less than the two figures of Canada and ANZAC, and are dwarfed completely by the giant figure of the British Army by whose boot they stand. In comparison of output, British Artillery in 1914 is a small field gun and in 1917 a giant howitzer. A British soldier calls to the Home Front and a lady with a dog is transformed into a munitions worker. Whereas "woman power" in 1914 is a microscopic figure, in 1917 she engulfs the screen. Munitions production in 1914 is a single shell, in 1917 a massive shell dump, pouring from Britain onto the Western Front, to the delight of John Bull and Lloyd George. Saint Paul's Cathedral will fit inside the Great Pyramid, 480 feet high, but British military artefact production in 1917 forms many larger pyramids. Ship production in 1914 is a small steamer, dwarfed by that of 1917. John Bull in a gunboat chases the Kaiser around the German colonies of the world, driving him (to the relief of the natives) back to Kiel with his fleet. For finance the cartoonist draws the figure 1,000,000 followed by a series of marks in rapid succession "at this pace, working eight hours a day, it would take a week to make a million marks". One day's British war expenditure in 1914, represented by John Bull on a gold pile, was four million pounds, and in 1917 six million pounds. To the end of 1917 total war expenditure was 6,951,852,472 pounds, which "in sovereigns edge to edge would circle the earth more than three and a half times". The earth transforms into an unhappy, battered Kaiser declaring "I should like Peace! - a German peace!" represented as John Bull in chains. "But this is the peace we mean to have!", Britannia victorious, guns transformed into new factories, a laurel wreath over all and the British family safe at home.


Remarks: the method of presenting complex statistics as pictures in this manner is misleading: one figure may be twice as large as another, but the image by which it is represented will also appear twice as wide and twice as long, or eight times as large altogether. This dramatises statistics in a manner which is misleading. Similarly, complex political issues are reduced to the crudest possible images in this film



  • BRITAIN'S EFFORT : drawings by Lancelot Speed

Technical Data

Running Time:
17 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
1002 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Ministry of Information
Speed, Lancelot
Production company
Lancelot Speed Films