Giles The Cartoonist

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Ronald “Carl” Giles was one of the most well-known British post war cartoonists whose work appeared in the British newspapers The Daily Express and its sister paper The Sunday Express between the dates of 1943 and 1991.

He was born Ronald Giles in Islington, London in 1916. His school-friends dubbed him “Karlo” after the actor Boris Karloff to whom they thought he bore a resemblance. This was later shortened to Carl and it stayed with him for the remainder of his life.

He left school when he was 14 years old and started working as an office boy for a Wardour Street film firm where he was later promoted to an animator for cartoon films. This led in 1935 to his employment by the famous producer and director Alexander Korda on the first full-length British sound-tracked colour cartoon film, The Fox Hunt.

After a brief time working in Ipswich, he joined Fleet Street in 1937. He worked as a cartoonist on the weekly newspaper Reynolds News where his efforts came to the attention of the editor of the Sunday Express and he was offered a job working for both the Daily Express and Sunday Express at the not inconsiderable salary of 20 guineas per week. His first cartoon for his new employers appeared in the Sunday Express in October 1943.

The 20 guineas a week proved a portent of greater fortunes to come as by 1955 he was being paid no less than 8,060 GBP a week for an output of three cartoons. He was now a wealthy man.

In 1959 he was given the OBE and among his greatest admirers and fans were members of the Royal family who frequently received originals of his wit.

His most well-known character creations were The Giles Family who first appeared in August 1945. They were a family from the more well off side of the British working class living in a suburban semi-detached house. The head of the family was Grandma a real battle axe of a woman whom anyone crossed at their peril. She is now immortalised as a bronze statue standing in Queen St Ipswich gazing up at the office
where Giles used to do his work.

They were used by Giles to comment on a topical event in the news of the day and proved to be highly patriotic although wary of authority. One amazing attribute of the family was that although their homes, pastimes and clothing reflected the changing values of the day, their ages were unchanged although the cartoons ran for 46 years.

Today any middle-aged, middle class Englishman ( or woman) will have fond memories of the Giles Annual. This was a very welcome addition to the Christmas stocking and contained a selection of Gile's work for the previous year. For many years this compilation was selected by Giles himself.

Carl Giles passed away in 1995 and in 2000 he was voted 'Britain's Favourite Cartoonist of the 20th Century'.

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