Keep Calm and Carry On

Have you ever seen this poster before?


I think I have, although I couldn’t tell you where or when.

One of my friends had another version of it posted on one of her pages (a cyclist’s version, complete with an old hoopty bike and “ride on” for “carry on”) and it triggered a little memory of seeing this thing before.

Thank goodness for Google.

Eventually, I found the “original.”

Turns out it was a poster designed by Britain’s Ministry of Information at the beginning of WWII, but never officially issued. It was the last in a series of three simple, stunning posters…



I love these posters. But I love the “Keep Calm” the best.

It was rediscovered around 2000 at a book shop in Northumberland, England. Since UK copyright rights expire after 50 years, the owners of the shop were able to make reproductions of the poster to sell. And it’s sort of taken off. The poster’s got its own website, now.

The history is what I love best about it, though. Because the reason this poster was never issued is a good one.

The Ministry of Information designed this series to be released one at a time. The first was “Your Courage,” which was used to stiffen resolve as Britain began its campaign. The second was “Freedom is in Peril,” used once Britain was in the war (the bombing of London comes to mind).

“Keep Calm” was held for “the worst.” That is, this poster was to be distributed in case of physical devastation throughout the island, invasion, or defeat.

There’s just something about a poster that never was, especially such a good one. It delights me that they were saving the strongest sentiment for the worst case scenario, and the worst never happened. It’s nice to think that they were considering defeat, when they started out, as a very real possibility. They planned for it, to meet it with legendary British stoicism.

And things turned out OK.

Obviously, this appeals to me.

(I can’t write about posters that inspire me without referencing this:)

(photo by Mike Monteiro)
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3 thoughts on “Keep Calm and Carry On”

  1. Very interesting post, and good presentation of the poster(s)! I don't think I ever saw any of them before. I was intrigued by the crown, but of course it was explained by your story.

  2. such a good find. Humm,,, i could blast off on these two posters alone,, lol,, but i will just say “thanks for the thought gererator and hope you have a great day”,,

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