Your Country Needs YOU: visualising World War One

It’s often difficult to demonstrate what I do. Often the material I work on is sensitive or confidential information, or it might simply be so specific to the meeting where it was recorded that it makes very little sense to an outsider. However, I was recently asked to draw a sequence of cartoons to illustrate the outbreak of the First World War for ‘Trench Stories’, an ambitious, original play, put on by the students of the Anstee Bridge Project, with the help of Bounce Theatre.

Explaining the causes of the First World War has spawned entire industries and is notoriously complex. However, visualising makes it simple. Here it is in five pictures:


The heir to the Austrian throne is assassinated by a Serbian nationalist.

Serbia resists Austria

Austria demands reparations from Serbia; Serbia refuses.

Russia backs Serbia

Russia intervenes on behalf of Serbia.

Germany backs Austria

Germany intervenes on behalf of Austria.

France, Britain and Belgium involved

Germany pushes Belgium aside to attack France, who is allied with Russia. Britain, who has a treaty with Belgium threatens to counter-attack Germany.

So there you have it!

If you want to read a rather fuller version, Christopher Clark’s recent book The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 is excellent, but long!

I would like to think that I would be able to convey any message, however difficult, through a handful of simple pictures. However, there are some subjects that are so abstruse, so controversial and so fiendish that they defy even me. I refer of course, to the off-side rule.

From my cartoon strip ‘Coach Kevin’, originally published by Greenstar Media.

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    • David Lewis says

      Thank-you Simon! No, this was commissioned by Anstee Bridge, an organisation that works with teenagers not reaching their potential, for a play they were putting on with their students. So I had a bit of time to check out all the uniforms and get the moustaches right!

  1. zoe thomas says

    Hi David,

    What a great show the other night- so well put together to show the best of the students. I love your illustrations and always keep me posted of what you are up to!

    Until we meet next time….

    x Zoe

    • David Lewis says

      Thank you Zoe! I couldn’t agree more: the show was fantastic, particularly bearing in mind that that was the first time the students had performed in that space! It’s always a pleasure working with you and I hope we have another opportunity of doing so again soon. David x

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