At the tender age of 7, I found myself on an unexpected adventure one Sunday night / Monday morning travelling in a hired small truck, zipping around lockups and warehouse storage areas at Heathrow airport. Besides the obvious thrill of staying up later than I ever had before, the locations were also exciting. Cold, dark and mysterious places full of goods loaded on pallets or in boxes. The place was also pretty much deserted as well, which gave the place a slightly spooky edge. I remember going with my Dad (whose idea this trip was – lest you think this was a solo adventure) into a building at Heathrow, going down a dimly lit corridor, and seeing this;
The disembodied skull with the rictus grin was pretty disconcerting. However, this paled in comparison with what waited for me around the next corner of the corridor;
DON’T SMUGGLE DEATH. The DEATH and RABIES in blood red lettering. The snarling wild eyed beast with it’s slavering jaws. The innocent victim. prone and defenceless. There is shock value in the image, and the use of the colour red emphasising the 2 keywords in the advertising. It is a hard hitting image, and a powerful message being conveyed. It affected me, especially in the context of being young, being in a slightly alien, dark and deserted environment. The bitter sweet memories of childhood terror!
Britain had some of the toughest quarantine laws in the world in the 70’s, following an outbreak of Rabies across Europe. With the UK Borders under attack from this unseen menace, the British Government began a poster and TV campaign about Rabies awareness. As you can see, it’s message was stark and uncompromising, with thed TV campaign being arguably the most unsettling;
Fascinating article on how the UK responded to the threat of Rabies;
Poster Images courtesy of the Wellcome Library