20 World War Two Posters Discouraging ‘Careless Talk’

Peter Curry

3 mins

01 Nov 2018

During World War Two, the British and US governments had countless posters printed in order to assist with the war effort. Many were simple propaganda, designed to engender popular support for the War. Some were blatantly racist in nature, especially by the standards of today.

One branch of this propaganda has been christened “careless talk”, and focused on discouraging the discussion of sensitive information about the war effort. Creative posters were made to depict the ways in which information might be leaked. It was also intended to prevent the spread of rumours which might drain morale.

In Britain, one of the most creators of such propaganda was “Fougasse” or Cyril Bird, who was a comic artist.

The government concluded that this nature of talk was not a real source of enemy intelligence, and that such talk would often be dismissed as planted information, the campaign decreased in intensity.

Here are 20 posters discouraging ‘careless talk’.

1. You Never Know Who’s Listening

One of Fougasse’s most famous pieces. Hitler and Göring depicted as listening behind two women on a train gossiping. Credit: The National Archives / Commons.

2. Tell Nobody Not Even Her

Persuading soldiers not to share military details with loved ones was an important aspect of these campaigns. Credit: The National Archive / Commons.

3. Keep This Strictly Between These Four Walls

Another famous Fougasse poster. Hitler’s face can be seen in the painting. Credit: The National Archives / Commons.

4. Less Dangerous Than Careless Talk

Imagery based on fear was also important. Credit: Boston Public Library / Commons.

5. Careless Talk Costs Lives

A more simplistic but informative poster. Credit: Library and Archives Canada / Commons.

6. Careless Talks Brings Tragedy in Wartime

This poster outlines the dangers of discussing sensitive information. Credit: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco / Commons.

7. Careless Talk Is Pieced Together By the Enemy

This poster attempts to demonstrate the danger of leaking even minor pieces of information. Credit: Boston Public Library / Commons.

8. Award For Careless Talk

This poster attempts to link staying quiet with patriotism, and the potential that one might help the Nazis was intended to discourage careless talk. Credit: U.S. National Archives / Commons.

9. There’s Often A Listener

This poster was part of a widespread concern about spies. Credit: The National Archives / Commons.

10. The More You Keep Under Your Hat the Safer He’ll Be Under His

British propaganda poster. Credit: The National Archives / Commons.

11. Someone Talked

The U-Boat threat was enough to warrant a specific set of posters attempting to suppress leakage of naval information. Credit: The National Archives / Commons.

12. Never Mention Sailing Dates

Another more aggressive poster in the same light, showing the dangers that U-Boats posed. Credit: The National Archives / Commons.

13. German Intelligence Officer

This poster relied on instilling fear of the ruthless Nazi. Credit: The National Archives / Commons.

14. Furtive Fritz Is Always Listening

A cartoon depicting Furtive Fritz, a caricature of a Nazi. Credit: The National Archives / Commons.

15. Look Who’s Listening!

Propaganda would often caricature foreign leaders, particularly Hitler. Credit: U.S. National Archives / Commons.

16. Keep Your Trap Shut!

Posters would also often rely on racist caricatures. Credit: U.S. Nationals Archives / Commons.

17. Mr Hitler Wants To Know!

Another caricature of Hitler. Credit: The National Archives / Commons.

18. Free Speech Doesn’t Mean Careless Talk

An American poster. Credit: C. R. Martin / U.S. National Archives / Commons.

19. You Forget, But She Remembers

Talking to women in bars was a familiar trope. It was believed that the Nazi spies might exploit soldiers while they were drunk. Credit: The National Archives / Commons.

20. Zipp It!

American poster encouraging GIs to be careful about sharing information. Credit: U.S. National Archives / Commons.

Header image credit: Commons.