The cartoonist, Leonard Raven Hill was born in Bath in 1867, the son of a law stationer. He was educated at Bristol Grammar School, Devon County School and later studied art at Lambeth School of Art. While still a student, he contributed joke cartoons to Judy signed 'Leonard Hill'. He continued his studies at the Académie Julian in Paris. On his return to London, he worked first as a painter, exhibiting at the Royal Academy. However he found more success as a prolific contributor of joke cartoons, theatrical caricatures and illustrations to many publications including Black & White, Cassell's, Daily Graphic, Pall Mall Gazette and the Strand. He was also joint editor of the Butterfly (1893) and started the Unicorn in 1895. He was one of the most celebrated black-and-white artists of the period and joined Punch in 1896 to begin an association that lasted 40 years. He was adept at portraying characters using a strong draughtsman like quality. He died in 1942 at Ryde on the Isle of Wight.


 

Pokers and Tongs say the Bells of St. John's is a line in a nursery ryhme about London city churches. It refers to the instruments of torture that were used in the Tower of London where the church is situated and is recited in a children's game. In this cartoon it possibly refers to the warships that Germany and Britain were launching to achieve naval supremacy. Although Britain had the strongest navy in the 19th century, in the 20th, Germany began to catch up and the race was on to build the most powerful and up-to-date navy. Here the Kaiser plays a game of who can build the largest navy, using Dreadnought class battleships as the prize. His opposing partner is Lord Fisher who was Britain's First Sea Lord in the Royal Navy.
When HMS Dreadnought was launched in 1906, it was a first class battleship with the latest innovations and it became the standard for future versions.