Silhouettes of soldiers around an anti-aircraft gun on the Western Front in World War Two WW2 CREDIT Lebrecht Music And Arts, Alamy Stock Photo
Did a 1921 census entry predict the Second World War? (Library picture: Lebrecht Music & Arts/Alamy).
WWII

Did a civil servant predict WW2 in 1921 census?

Arthur Vince was one of several people who used their census for political protest, with others lamenting living conditions.

Silhouettes of soldiers around an anti-aircraft gun on the Western Front in World War Two WW2 CREDIT Lebrecht Music And Arts, Alamy Stock Photo
Did a 1921 census entry predict the Second World War? (Library picture: Lebrecht Music & Arts/Alamy).

A civil servant defaced his 1921 census return with a hauntingly predictive political cartoon, depicting officials in top hats 'counting cannon fodder' for the 'next war'.

Arthur Vince, 28, a tax officer for the Inland Revenue in London, used his ink sketch to predict that the world would go to war in 1936.

The cartoon featured three 'elite' men in top hats being served a cup of tea by a maid, sitting around a table with a piece of paper in front of them containing the words 'War 1936'.

An annotation says they are "counting available 'cannon fodder'. Next war 1936 from 1921 census returns!"

Mr Vince was only three years out with his forecast, with the Second World War beginning in September 1939.

Tragically, it is believed that Mr Vince's son Bobby, included in the 1921 census aged just 16 months, was among those killed in the war predicted by his father.

Mr Vince was one of several people who used their census returns for political protest, with others lamenting living conditions and the cost of the exercise.

Historian David Olusoga said: "This is somebody not just complaining about the indifference of the elite – he is actually making a prediction in 1921 that turns out to be accurate.

"Most tragically of all, his own son, a baby boy of 16 months at the moment of the census, dies in the Second World War that his father predicted in 1921.

"These are stunning, absolutely incredible moments when someone from the past – an anonymous person who we know very little about – speaks to us through the census," he added.

The 1921 census data delivers a snapshot of life 100 years ago and is especially significant as the 1931 census was lost in a fire during the Second World War and the 1941 census was never taken.