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The artist Stacey Hopper was born exactly 100 years ago, at Aberaman, now part of the town of Aberdare, South Wales, on 28 April 1909. Thousands of people will have seen his work without knowing his name. His claim to fame is that, in the role of cartoonist and illustrator, he saved many Allied soldiers in World War II from the horrors of such diseases as malaria and syphilis, and thereby played a part in the Allied victory.
The Wellcome Library has two collections of Stacey Hopper’s works, one from the Royal Army Medical Corps and one from Stacey Hopper himself; the latter was acquired from his family in 2003, together with valuable contextual information about his life and work. Other works by him are in the Imperial War Museum and the National Army Museum in London.Before the war, Stacey Hopper taught art in Ealing and was an accomplished caricaturist. In 1934 he published a caricature “The origin of the Nazi salute” which was reproduced in newspapers at home and abroad: it showed the Nazi salute evolving from the action of Hitler holding up a paintbrush when painting. Stacey Hopper was called up and joined the Royal Corps of Signals in August 1941, and was initially posted to Prestatyn, North Wales. In November 1942 he was among the troops sent to Algeria. There his artistic ability and sense of humour brought him to the attention of Major General Ernest Cowell, who asked him to help with health promotion for the Army Medical Department (the initials “AMD” appear on many of his works).
In Algeria the main problem was malaria. The disease was attacked in several ways. In the first place it was necessary to get into the minds of soldiers that mosquitoes were vectors of disease. As the Australian hygiene expert Neil Hamilton Fairley impressed on General Wavell, there was a danger of losing more men through malaria than through military casualties at the hands of Hitler and Mussolini.
Practical measures included blocking off the mosquitoes’ breeding grounds, for example by excluding them from the latrines …
Wellcome Library no. 584263i
Another method was to spray everything in sight with “Paris Green” (copper (II) acetoarsenite), a toxic substance used as an insecticide …
Above: Wellcome Library no. 584264i
The medicine of choice against malaria was Atebrin, which was strongly supported by Hamilton Fairley and eventually replaced quinine as the main prophylactic against malaria. However, compliance was so difficult to enforce that eventually officers were ordered to place the pills in the men’s mouths themselves. This exercise (below) in the style of H.M. Bateman refers to Atebrin.
“Tablet day — the man who forgot”. Wellcome Library no. 584428i
In November 1943 Stacey Hopper was promoted to Second Lieutenant and took part in the invasion of mainland Italy. Some wash drawings by him in the Wellcome Library record the bringing of casualties by air from the Anzio campaign in Lazio to Capodichino airport near Naples. This example, dated Naples 1944, shows the wounded being carried by stretcher-bearers into a tent where they are served with mugs of tea by the Red Cross. A lot of casualties are anticipated, for the first arrivals are being laid down at the back of the tent, and the tea urn and a quantity of mugs are on a table near the front. After tea, they were taken by ambulance to military hospitals for treatment. Above left: Wellcome Library no. 583973i
As the troops fought their way northwards towards Rome, Stacey Hopper’s artistic skills were again called on to protect the troops, no longer from malaria but from typhus and dysentery.
Left, Wellcome Library no. 585129i. Above, a detail from it.
Right: Wellcome Library no. 585148i
And as Italians went over to the Allies in the areas liberated from the Axis, thought was given to Italian women who were infected with sexually transmitted diseases by Allied soldiers. Right: Wellcome Library no. 585150i
It was also now in the Allies’ interest to make sure that Italian cooks recruited to serve the troops obeyed the stricter hygiene regulations that were required when catering for large numbers. Left: Wellcome Library no. 585122i
Having returned safely from the war Stacey Hopper returned to his pre-War profession as a teacher of art, at first in Ealing in West London and later in Somerset. He also continued to produce caricatures for publication, especially of popular entertainers and of actors in the West End theatres: his work was published in the Musical Express. He died in Bristol on 6 February 1996.
Works by Stacey Hopper are in copyright and are reproduced here under a licence granted to the Wellcome Library.
Author: William Schupbach