Keith Vaughan: Soldier Writing Home, 1942


Pen and ink and wash on paper,
Studio stamp on reverse
13.5 x 22 cm
Framed in oak

Artist’s estate, private collection

This drawing comes from a wartime sketchbook made at Codford Camp in 1942. Various drawings by Vaughan, especially in the early 1940s, are concerned with letter writing. Before the advent of e-mails and cell phones, post was the only way of communicating over a long distance. It should be remembered that personal letters were censored during the war and it was not uncommon for them to arrive with line after line obliterated in dense black ink, rendering passages completely illegible. It was important therefore, that communications were carefully worded and phrased in precautionary terms. Vaughan, being highly literate, was frequently called upon to assist his less able comrades to couch their news in language that was appropriate and acceptable. He read their letters before they were sent off and offered advice on how to get past the censor. When letters were received from home, they were much prized and read over and over again, to extract subtly coded information. This drawing celebrates the importance of the wartime written wartime word.