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  • Writer's pictureLucy Vinten

Stella Maris and the Second World War

Stella Maris was a monthly magazine which was published from 1913 until 1969. It was started and edited by Fr Lester SJ, Superior of Campion House, and following his death in 1934 was continued by Fr Tigar SJ, who also succeeded him as Superior. Osterley was a training college for men with late vocations, run by Jesuits for men who went on to join various religious orders and dioceses.

Stella Maris contained articles on matters of faith and doctrine, and on Catholic history. It answered readers’ enquiries, and gave news from Campion House, Osterley. Stella Maris also asked for donations towards the running of Campion House, sometimes in inventive ways, including postage stamps or old jewellery as well as cash. Stella Maris’ subtitle was ‘The magazine for the Sodalist and for the Catholic Home’.

During the years of the Second World War the emphasis of the magazine changed. At the request of Bishop Dey, Bishop-in-Ordinary to H. M. Forces, it became the official magazine for the Forces, and was distributed by the Catholic United Services Association. By 1942 it was advertising itself as ‘The Magazine for the Forces and the Catholic Home’, and by 1943 it had become ‘The Catholic Magazine for the Forces’.

This change in target audience during the war years was paralleled by a dramatic change in cover design. In the 1920s and 1930s the covers of Stella Maris had been plain, either entirely text based, or showing a conventional image of the Virgin Mary. The contents were listed on the cover, and the design changed very little over the years.

By contrast, during the years 1939-1946 the cover design changed frequently and was visually far more striking. Colour was used to great effect, with only one colour and black used on each cover, in inventive ways.

The first of the more inventive covers was in 1939. This had very little text, just the name Stella Maris in a bold Sans Serif typeface, together with the date and price, and a blue image of a star with a shaft of light hitting the stylised waves of the sea. The list of contents now were included at the top of the first page inside the magazine.

In March 1942 the magazine had a very striking image of marching soldiers on its cover. This was surely influenced by Soviet poster design, unsurprising given that the USSR was an ally and that Stella Maris carried articles at this time hopeful that Stalin would allow Christianity to flourish again in Russia after the war was won.

A year later the cover changed again, this time carrying the title in a font with heavy serifs and images of men in the Army, Navy and Air Force, superimposed over a picture of, respectively, a tank, a ship and aeroplanes. Interestingly as much prominence is given to women, with another three pictures, representing the ATS, WRNS and the WAAF. Campion House, Osterley at this time was devoting itself to running retreats, and ran very many for women in the forces, as well as men.

In late 1944 the cover now showed a white cross superimposed on a coloured background, again showing the faces of three service men and three service women, all wearing uniform hats.

In 1946 was the last of the striking war era images. In this case the image used was a lithograph by Edward P Lancaster, who also designed posters for the London Underground and, later, travel posters advertising skiing in the French Alps. It shows a sailor in an open boat, being watched over by the image of a saint. In the sky is a large star.

In the autumn of 1946 the cover changed once more and to an image that was used on every cover for most of the next decade. It shows an image of the Virgin and Child in a square-rigged boat, with ‘Ave Maria Gratia Plena’ written round it. A star and Stella Maris appears below, together with the date and price. While it is a pleasing mid-century image it is far more conventional than the bold images used during the war years. In feel and tone it is more akin to the pre-war covers than the striking war-time ones.

Thereafter there was only one more change in design until the final two years of the magazine’s existence, when a change of editors and emphasis was reflected in different styles and finally closure in 1969.

It seems likely that during the war years there was someone working in the office at Campion House Osterley who had an interest in graphic design. We don’t know who this was, but their covers show an awareness of developments in design, and also reflects the changing emphasis of the magazine during the war. The covers were designed to be attractive to the young men and women serving in the forces. Once the war was over the magazine reverted to being aimed at the Catholic home and reflected this in a return to a more conservative cover design.

The Jesuit in Britain Archives holds a mainly complete run of issues of Stella Maris. If you would like to make an appointment to look at this, please contact the Archives. We do have some gaps in our collection of Stella Maris; if you have any old copies you would be willing to donate please contact us to see if your copies would fill some of our holes.

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