Colonel Blimp

Colonel Blimp

Colonel Blimp is a British cartoon character.

The cartoonist David Low first drew Colonel Blimp for Lord Beaverbrook's London Evening Standard in the 1930s: pompous, irascible, jingoistic and stereotypically British. Low developed the character after overhearing two military men in a Turkish bath declare that cavalry officers should be entitled to wear their spurs inside tanks.

"Gad, Sir", Blimp would proclaim from the Turkish bath, wrapped in his towel and brandishing some mundane weapon to emphasize his passion on some issue of current affairs. Unfortunately, his pronouncements were often confused and childlike. His phrasing often includes direct contradiction, as though the first part of a sentence of his did not know what it was leading to, with the conclusion being part of an emotional catchphrase.

Blimp was a satire on the reactionary opinions of the British establishment of the 1930s and 1940s. Colonel Blimp has been called the representative of "all that he [Low] disliked in British politics" - such as a perceived lack of enthusiasm for democracy. However Low did describe him as "a symbol of stupidity, and stupid people are quite nice."

George Orwell and Tom Wintringham made especially extensive use of the term "blimps", Orwell in his articles and Wintringham in his books How to Reform the Army and People's War, with exactly the above meaning in mind.

A more likeable version of Blimp appeared in the classic British film The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp starring Roger Livesey and Deborah Kerr (The King and I). It was made in 1943, when the war was at its height by Powell and Pressburger. The "Blimp" character was named Clive Candy and is not actually called "Blimp" other than in the title. Prime Minister Winston Churchill sought to ban the film due to its sympathetic presentation of a German officer (played by Anton Walbrook), albeit an anti-Nazi one, who is more down-to-earth and realistic than the central British character.

The character has survived in the form of a clichéd phrase — highly conservative opinions are characterised as 'Colonel Blimp' statements.


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