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Blue Plaque for Alfred Leete unveiled

by mikebell on 3 July, 2018

A blue plaque for Alfred Leete, designer of the iconic ‘Your Country needs You’ poster, has been unveiled by Weston-super-Mare Town Council.

The blue plaque is located on the front of Addington Court, on Marine Parade, one of a pair of hotels on Weston seafront that his parents ran.

Alfred went to Kingsholm School in Arundell Road followed by an apprenticeship with a firm of Bristol architects. A chance opportunity to sell drawings to the Bristol Magpie magazine set him on a path to Fleet Street and national recognition. Other journals, including Punch, soon realised Leete’s talent, particularly in the field of cartoons and by the age of thirty he was becoming much sought after.

Leete had ‘arrived’ and London journalists loved his work, but he never lost his affection for Weston and often produced sketches of local events, shops (including Cecil Walker’s) and people.

He met Edith Webb in Weston and in 1909 they were married. Their first child, Betty, died in infancy but a son, John, born 1915, went on to become another artist.

When the First World War broke out Alfred was drawing for a number of national magazines and papers including Punch, Tatler, Sketch, Bystander and London Opinion. It was this last magazine which carried what was to become his iconic war sketch with the face of General Kitchener pointing a finger from the words “Your Country Needs You”. A variation was used by the Americans – “Uncle Sam” having replaced Kitchener. During the Second World War the conscription poster was reissued, but with Churchill’s bulldog face, though its impact was never up to that of Leete’s original concept. The famous 1914 poster had immediate appeal and even to this day is used by countless organisations and individuals who wish to highlight causes and events.

Leete himself joined the Colours and served, most appropriately, in the Artists’ Rifles.

After the war Alfred’s work was in great demand, not only with newspapers and periodicals, but within the wider sphere of commercial advertising. Posters for Rowntree’s chocolates, London Underground and Younger’s Brewery soon adorned the billboards of the Empire’s towns and cities. Living and working in London, Alfred moved in clubbable circles and became a regular at the Savages (today’s Bristol Savages continue the artistic tradition at the Red House). In 1928 he became President of the Sketch Club.

Alfred was taken ill in 1933 whilst on holiday in Italy. He returned home to London where he died on 17th June and though the Capital had become his adoptive home he never forgot Weston-super-Mare and it was to his old home that he returned for burial. His grave can be seen in Milton Road Cemetery.

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