Friday, 22 February 2013

“Sit up straight,” 1946


The period immediately following the grand finale of the Second World War found Britain exhausted and impoverished. In an act of unprecedented social engineering, a mass re-energisation was planned, including injecting everyone under the age of 50 with orange juice, and the introduction of the ‘Doctor, Doctor’ joke as a national fillip.

But not all were convinced. Sir Constant Payne, Minister of Labour, who coined the phrase ‘feed them sticks and leave the carrots to their idiot dreams,’ took a dim of view of the project, ridiculing it as ‘no better than putting the country to Nanny’s bosom to cork its mewling’.


His idea was to bully the nation back to its senses, and this was the first of 115 posters he commissioned from the NOI. In his memoirs, No Book For Fools, he wrote

[T]he sight of Britain’s young men slouching like dead tramps in a canoe was enough to make a chap want to take a ferula to their sit-upons. I resolved to get the nation’s backs straight once more – even if I had to break them myself.

Payne went on to present the Open University’s first panel game, British Foreign Policy 1381-1955: A Critical Study.


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