On this day in history : 27th August 1995 – The death of cartoonist Giles – famous for his cartoons in British newspaper The Daily Express and for the annuals found in so many of the nation’s Christmas stockings each year….

Fair use

Ronald ‘Carl’ Giles was born in Islington, London on the 29th of September 1916…. His friends thought he looked like the actor Boris Karloff and so this earned him the nickname ‘Karlo’ which later became shortened to ‘Carl’….

Giles was the son of Albert Giles, a tobacconist and his mother was the daughter of a Norfolk farmer – he spent most of his childhood summer holidays on the farm…. After leaving school at 14, with no formal art training, he went on to work as an office boy for Superads – an advertising agency…. He was to progress up the ladder to become a junior animator of cartoons….

From 1935 he was to work for Alexander Korda, who was one of the main animators for the first full length British colour cartoon film with sound – The Fox Hunt…. He then went on to join Roland Davies in Ipswich, who was setting up an animation studio….

After the death of his brother in 1937 Giles returned to London and started working for the left wing weekly publication Reynolds News, where he produced, amongst others, the cartoon strip Young Ernie…. He was to come to the notice of John Gordon, editor of the Sunday Express, who in 1943 offered Giles a job on the Daily Express and Sunday Express…. At a temptingly much higher salary it was an offer Giles could not refuse – and so he left Reynolds News to work for the Express Group – his first publication appearing in the Sunday Express on the 3rd of October 1943…. Giles was later to say that he felt some guilt – as his political allegiances lay more with the views of Reynolds News….he did not like the Express’s politics…. However, the money was better than good….by 1955 he was earning the equivalent of around £200K a year in today’s terms, for producing three cartoons a week….

Giles had been declared unfit for war service as he was deaf in one ear and blind in one eye following a motorcycle accident…. So instead during World War 2 he made animated short films for the Ministry of Information…. He also served for a time as a war correspondent to the Coldstream Guards, who liberated Bergen-Belsen…. He was to interview Josef Kramer, the camp commandant, who turned out to be a fan of Giles’s…. Kramer was later hanged for his war crimes….

Giles sketches whilst leaning on the front of a tank, whilst his comrades work on the vehicles – From the collections of the Imperial War Museums

In 1942 he married his first cousin Sylvia Joan Clarke…. They were to be married for over fifty years but had no children…. They made their home at Witnesham, near to Ipswich, Suffolk – and here they spent the rest of their lives….

Among Giles’s many thousands of fans were members of the royal family; a request often came from the Palace for originals of his work…. In 1959 he was awarded with an OBE….

The characters we usually associate with his work include the matriarch ‘Grandma’ and ‘Chalkie’, the school teacher – who was modelled on one of his own former schoolmasters…. These characters and others of the extended Giles family first appeared as a published cartoon on the 5th of August 1945…. Many of his cartoons made reference to, or even quoted the headlines of the current news stories of the day….

The first Giles Annual appeared in 1946 and the series still runs today…. Giles left the Daily Express in 1989 but continued at the Sunday Express until 1991…. In the last decade of his life he was plagued by ill health…. His sight loss was increasing and he was becoming more and more deaf….In 1990, due to poor circulation, he had both of his legs amputated…. Then on Christmas Day 1994 his wife died…. Giles was never to get over her death – eight months later, on the 27th of August 1995, he passed away in Ipswich Hospital…. He was aged 78….

The Giles Family ‘Powercut’ – published January 15th 1963 – Fair use

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