Alfred Leete (1882-1933)

Alfred Leete (1882-1933)

(Image courtesy of the North Somerset Local Studies Collection)


Alfred Leete designed the most iconic image of the First World War showing Lord Kitchener

Sketching Away

Alfred Ambrose Chew Leete was born in Thorpe Achurch in Northamptonshire on 28 August 1882. His parents John and Harriet were farmers but moved the family to Weston-super-Mare in 1893 when John became ill.

Alfred enjoyed drawing so his father arranged for him to leave school aged twelve to work for a surveyor in Bristol. In 1897 his first cartoon was accepted by the Daily Graphic and he began to contribute regularly to the Bristol Magpie.

Encouraged by this, Alfred moved to London in 1899 to establish himself as a commercial artist. At first he struggled to get his work accepted by the national papers and magazines. He kept trying and soon many publications, including Punch, Tatler, and The London Opinion, were regularly publishing his drawings.

On 9 November 1909 Alfred married Edith Webb. They had a daughter named Betty, who sadly died in infancy, and a son named John.


Your Country Needs You

By the age of 32 when the war started, Alfred was one of the best commercial artists. On the 5 September 1914 Alfred’s drawing of General Kitchener featured on the front of The London Opinion magazine with the words ‘Your Country Needs You’.

This image was later adapted into an unofficial recruiting poster by the magazine with the words ‘Britons [Kitchener] Needs You’. In 1917 it was also adapted into an American version with the words ‘Uncle Sam Needs You’.

Alfred also produced comic cartoons which poked fun at the Germans, including series called Schmidt the Spy, The Worries of Wilhelm and The Bosch Book. These were later published as cartoon story books.

Alfred joined the Artists’ Rifles in 1916. He served with them in Franceon the Western Front. During this time he produced a series of wash drawings that captured life during the war with great sensitivity.


A Living Legacy

After the war, Alfred was very busy supplying drawings to newspapers and magazines. He produced successful advertising campaigns for companies including Guiness, Bovril, Rowntrees Chocolate, Youngers’ Ale, and the London Underground. 

From the 1920s onwards Alfred’s drawing of Kitchener began to capture people’s imaginations. It has been used as the inspiration for many new posters including one with Churchill’s face in the Second World War. Other adaptations were produced in Australia, Canada, South Africa, India, Italy, Austria, Germany, and Bolshevik Russia.

Alfred died on 17 June 1933 in Kensington, London. He is buried in the Milton Road Cemetery in Weston-super-Mare. His drawing of Kitchener is still being reproduced, copied and adapted today.

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Published 4 years ago by Amal Khreisheh

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