Defend Wuhan!

‘Defend Wuhan’, banner on wall, Wuhan, 1938. HPC Miscellaneous collection, Bi-s166 © 2018 Historical Photographs of China

We spotted this on Ebay, and bought it along with a small group of prints evidently taken in Wuhan during the Sino-Japanese war. They came from an album of prints that was being sold, page by page. A little research provided us with the owner’s name. Briton Leslie Reginald Frederick Shrimpton (1910-1964) served with the Royal Navy on the Yangzi River gunboat HMS Falcon in 1937-39. The photographs are undated, but must have been taken during the period before the fall of Wuhan to the Japanese army in the summer of 1938. The ship was certainly in Wuhan in June 1938.

Shrimpton’s other photographs, as far as we could see them on Ebay, were unremarkable, some were purchased from photographers, but others are not taken by professionals. He may have taken them, but at the very least he selected them for his album, his eye  evidently caught by these large banners and posters. Such records of the visual propaganda on China’s streets and buildings that underpinned Nationalist China’s dogged resistance to the Japanese invasion are quite rare. It prompts us to reflect on else might yet be in homes overseas, in the care of families like Shrimpton’s, and what else they might yet offer us by way of records of China’s past.

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