First newspaper work with Reynolds News from 1937 to 1943
Black and white photo of Giles sitting cross-legged on a chair by his easel
©Co-operative News. All rights reserved.

GAPH00392, Black and white photo of Giles sitting cross-legged on a chair by his easel (undated) 

In September 1937, while living in Ipswich and looking for freelance work, Giles submitted “a new character comic strip” to the London Sunday newspaper Reynolds News. At this time Giles was still trying to establish himself as an animator, and the editor of Reynolds News, Sydney Elliott, recalled that he was “tying himself into knots in his own commercial studio”. Elliott offered Giles some work drawing editorial cartoons, the first of which appeared on 3 October 1937. They also discussed Giles’ proposed strip, which Elliott suggested should be drawn without captions or labels. Giles agreed, and the first of a long series appeared in Reynolds News on 9 January 1938, with the title “Young Ernie”.  

By this time Giles had returned to London to be with his mother, following the death of his elder brother Bert. His Reynolds News cartoons were drawn at the newspaper office. “Giles had an easel in the library”, one journalist remembered: “And goodness, how he enjoyed working on his cartoons. He would do a bit - draw a character - then stand back and say, with a huge grin on his face: ‘Look at that silly bugger there.’” Elliott later found Giles an office to work in, but admitted that it was soon transformed into “a child’s delight and a newspaper cashier’s nightmare - a litter of the latest models of the aeroplanes, motor cars, speed boats and trains which were the stock-in-trade of his cartoons.”  

Reynolds News was a left-wing paper, and Giles became close friends with two charismatic communists: the paper’s designer Allen Hutt, and a sub-editor named Monty Slater. Giles later claimed that he almost became a communist himself. In 1941 he certainly began cartooning for a communist magazine called Our Time, and, after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, he designed a poster showing British and Soviet soldiers attacking a German, with the text “FOR VICTORY IN 1942 / OPEN UP A SECOND FRONT IN THE WEST.” Giles always thought of himself as a “dirty red”, and a wartime visitor to his house noted that he had “much Soviet literature”. But his admiration for Soviet Russia was a romantic attachment that faded after the war.  

A cartoon strip of Young Ernie, sittting in a tank with bullets raining down on him before opening a tea shack in his tank
©Co-operative News. All rights reserved.

GAP2029, Young Ernie by Giles, Ronald Carl Giles, Reynolds News (12 Nov 1939)

Last updated