Card Games of World War II
Throughout the war, card games were a hugely popular source of entertainment and diversion for adults and children. These are some of the games that were produced in Britain specifically for a wartime market.
Salute!, War Planes, Who's Who, Mr. Chad, Victory, Snap, Lecardo, Convoy, England Expects, Black-Out!, Vacuation, and official Aircraft Recognition cards.
Morale boosting, patriotic, topical, educational and often darkly humorous these games helped pass the time, bring relief and keep chins up during the dark wartime years.
Churchill personally intervened to ensure that sufficient supplies of regular playing cards were available "Nothing is more handy, more portable, or more capable of prolonged usage than a pack of cards." and “The important thing is to have cards freely forthcoming when called for, and although the soldiers should have priority civilian workers need them too.” *
Victory by Pepys, London, published anonymously, 1939. 44 cards + rules.
Excellent caricatures of Navy, Army, Air Force and Home Service Ranks and Roles together with Master cards depicting British and German leaders.
Produced before Churchill replaced Chamberlain as Prime Minister in May 1940.
The box features St George killing the Dragon and the card backs show Nelson's HMS Victory.
For images of every card and more details see the feature on collectingpepys.org
The Master cards from Victory: Chamberlain, Churchill, Gort and Newall.
The Nazi cards from Victory: Hitler, Ribbentrop, Goebbels and Goering.
A selection of cards from Victory.
Salute! by John Jaques & Son Ltd. Hatton Garden, London, c.1940. 52 cards + rules.
A game designed to help identify and compare ranks between the Navy, Army, Air Force and Women's Auxiliary Services. Junior ranks are not featured. The cards and box are of a slightly lower quality than was usual for Jaques. In 1941 Jaques' London HQ was destroyed by bombing.
A selection of cards from Salute!
Black-Out!, by Kardonia, 8 George's Road, London N7, 1939, 46 cards + rules card. A humorous game that was clearly produced to wartime economy standards.
The erratic numbering of the cards previously led to confusion about the correct number of cards in a pack.
A selection of cards from Black-Out!
Convoy by Tree Brand, London, c.1939, 49 cards + 3 score cards and rules sheet.
Another game from 1939, this time celebrating the might of the Royal Navy. Unusually the "Compass Card" needs to be thrown or "cast with a spinning motion" onto a table during play, as a result many surviving packs have damaged Compass Cards.
All the designs from Convoy.
Lecardo - Outfit, by Stanley Kermode, Christchurch, Hants, 1939, 55 cards + 1 blank and rules sheet/boards/tokens.
A whole compendium of different games shoe-horned into a single pack of cards.
The cards are at once a regular pack of four-suited playing cards, a set of double-nine dominoes and a word game. With the addition of paper boards and tokens they could also be used to play a farming game and football!
Lecardo cards, rules, money tokens and paper board for Lecardo Farmers.
Mr Chad, published anonymously, c 1942, 50 cards +rules.
The aim of the game is to construct sentences in the style of phrases commonly chalked as graffiti in unlikely locations by "Mr Chad". Mr Chad was the British version of the American Kilroy. With the influx of US troops during the build up to D-Day Kilroy supplanted Mr Chad and Kilroy's chalked phrase "Kilroy Was Here"became the most common form of this graffiti.
A selection of cards from Mr Chad.
England Expects by Pepys, London, published anonymously, 1939/40.
Like Convoy, the game celebrates the Royal Navy but its artwork was based on photographs of individual named ships and was produced with the assistance of the Editor of Jane's Fighting Ships.
Nelson's Trafalgar signal gives the game its name and the card backs feature Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square.
For images of every card and more details see the feature on collectingpepys.org . A reproduction of the game was issued by Lagoon in 2011
All the designs from "England Expects"
"Who's Who" or "Food For Thought" by M.P. Lambert, 1939, 54 cards +rules. A simple set collecting game based on patriotic rhymes of dubious quality. Produced very cheaply with misaligned and badly cut cards common.
However poor the rhymes and the quality of the cards, I think the game exemplifies the spirit of defiance, good humour and stoicism of the moment.
A selection of 12 cards were reproduced as an insert for Britain at War Magazine in 2012, these are overprinted with a small mark "BAW 04.02.12" on the backs.
A selection of British Leader cards from "Who's Who".
A selection of Nazi Leader cards from "Who's Who".
Vacuation by Pepys, London, published anonymously, 1939, 44 cards + rules.
A wonderful series of cartoon caricatures, of teachers, householder hosts and evacuated children. The artist is unknown.
A wartime game that tackled the often harrowing experiences of millions of children, their families and their hosts with reassuring humour.
For images of every card and more details see the feature on collectingpepys.org. A reproduction of the game was published by British Heritage c. 2000
A selection of cards from Vacuation.
Snap by Woolworths, New Bond Street, London W1, circa 1942, 48 cards + rules card.
The simplest of games with gentle wartime imagery incorporated. The Woolworth's Museum has a feature on all their wartime games, including the difficulties of production and how limited supplies were prioritised for areas worst affected by bombing.
The online museum also has another example of a wartime Snap game produced Woolworths.
All designs from Snap
War Planes - A Game for Aircraft Spotters by Temple Press, Bowling Green Lane, London EC1, circa 1940, 67 cards plus rules.
52 of the cards have standard playing card symbols and indices along with different views of British & German aircraft with hints for accurate identification.
Another "suit" of 13 cards give technical information, speed, engine details etc. and 2 Flag cards act as Jokers or Keys to the British and German aircraft depicted. All the cards were produced with images from "The Aeroplane" magazine.
The cards have the same backs and dimensions as those in Lecardo, both games were probably manufactured by Jarvis Porter/Porterprint of Leeds.
A selection of cards from War Planes.
Official Aircraft Recognition Cards
Three different editions of four packs each were issued in 1941, 1942 and 1945. These cards were produced by Pepys, London, initially for the Air Ministry and in 1945 for the Admiralty. These cards were not available to civilians.
They were specifically designed as training aids for Pilots, Gunners, Observers and others but could also be used for games and a number of suggestions were included in their instructions.
For more details of all three sets of these military issue cards visit the dedicated page on Collecting Pepys.
The 1941 set of Pepys' Official Aircraft Recognition Cards.
*See Appendix C "The Second World War - Vol 5, Closing the Ring" W.S.Churchill