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Gongs and Cartoons

With Remembrance Day just days away and a burgeoning interest in all things ‘Great War’, it’s worth spending a minute on nicknames that are given to campaign medals. During and after World War 1, the commonly-awarded medals didn’t escape the typical Commonwealth military sense of amusement, with popular cartoon characters of the day manifesting themselves in honours and awards.

From the Regimental Museum of the Royal Welsh, comes this timely explanation:

“PIP, SQEAK and WILFRED’ are the nicknames given to the trio of campaign medals issued to members of British and Empire forces who took part in the Great War, viz: 1914/15 Star, British War and Victory Medals. The medals themselves are not gallantry medals and as such have only a small monetary value because of the large number issued (two million medals were issued in the case of 1914/15 Star and a further five million each for British War Medal and theVictory Medal). Many people will have a set of these medals in their families’ possession and may wonder why they are know as ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred.’

Pip, Squeak and Wilfred were characters in a comic strip which first appeared in the Daily Mirror on 12th may 1919. the author of the script was Bertram J. Lamb and the artist was Austin B. Payne. The naming of the characters in the strip is due to Payne’s wartime batman who for unknown reason was known as ‘Pip-Squeak’.

Pip was a dog, Squeak a penguin and Wilfred who did not appear until later in the series was a rabbit. Pip and Squeak were portrayed as being Wilfred’s parents and there was a supporting cast of a Russian bomb maker and his dog ‘Popski’. Another jaded and elderly penguins known as ‘Auntie’ mad an appearance.

The comic strip was extremely popular and became a craze in the 1920’s. The issue of the medals coincided with the start of this craze and they soon became known as Pip, Squeak and Wilfred. Only soldiers who served prior to 1st January 1916 received all three campaign medals. son large number of veterans only received the British War and Victory Medals – these two on their own were christened ‘MUTT and JEFF.’

I knew this phase was cockney rhyming slang for ‘Deaf’ and a term often given to a pairing of a short and tall man, though it could mean two men of wildly dissimilar characteristics. My research, however, reveals that Mutt and Jeff, like Pip, Squeak and Wilfred were also comic-strip characters; probably a precursor to find characters Laurel and Hardy, they were two working-class everyone – during, gambling and getting in how water with their wives.

in 1907, a San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist named Bud Fisher (Harry Conway Fisher) began drawing a daily comic strip called ‘Mr. Mutt’. A short time later, he added the diminutive Mr. Jeff, and ‘Mutt and Jeff’ was born. Mutt was a tall, lanky man with a penchant for horses, while Jeff looks like the Monopoly man after a rough weekend. Mutt and Jeff were affable losers – the guys in the cheap seats at horse races on a Wednesday afternoon.

The boys started out as an amusing side strip in the Chronicle sports pages, but by 1915 Mutt and Jeff were a national phenomenon in the USA and beyond. Fisher launched himself full-throttle into a life of fame and fortune (he once owned 50 thoroughbreds), but he quit drawing the strip.

He ‘supervised’ a woefully underappreciated team of illustrators and writers until his death in 1954. The most prominent of the illustrators was Al Smith, who worked on the strip from 1932 to 1980. The strip ended in 1982. Many people consider ‘Mutt and Jeff’ to be the first daily newspaper comic strip. There you go!”

Grab your set here:
Mutt and Jeff: and
Pip, Squeak and Wilfred:

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