Discover remarkable examples of postcards exchanged between Frank Musgrave and his wife during the First World War.

Here at The Postal Museum, we have a collection of 76 postcards sent by First World War serviceman, Frank Musgrave, to his wife, Maude Mabel, in England whilst he was serving in France. Frank and Mabel married in January 1917 and the postcards date from March that year to 1919. They show diligent correspondence whilst they were apart in their early married life.

Photograph of Frank and Mabel Musgrave, 19 January 1917, 2016-0023/78

Before the war

Frank joined the General Post Office in 1905 at West Brompton Sorting Office. He initially worked as a messenger boy and then a postman. He is pictured here with other messenger boys, in the middle row on the far left.

Photograph of Messenger Boys at West Brompton Sorting Office, 1905-1915, 2016-0023/80

In 1915 he enlisted as a pioneer in the Royal Engineers Postal Section (REPS). A pioneer is a soldier who performs engineering tasks, and the REPS were responsible for providing postal services to troops in the First World War. This photograph shows a group of new recruits in 1915, Frank is in the front row on the far left.

Photograph of members of the Royal Engineers Postal Section in 1915, 2016-0023/83

Light-hearted postcards

Although Frank’s postcards were sent during the war, he writes to his wife about topics that are light-hearted and practical. He talks about the weather, going to church, and letters he has received from other people. On the 23rd of July 1917, he writes that ‘the weather continues to be glorious’.

First World War Postcard (front), 23 July 1917, 2016-0023/16

First World War Postcard (back), 23 July 1917, 2016-0023/16

Many of the postcards are illustrated with cheery pictures as well, including bouquets of flowers and women in an array of fashionable hats and clothes.

First World War Postcard (front), 25 July 1917, 2016-0023/17

First World War Postcard (front), 17 October 1917, 2016-0023/31

First World War Postcard (front), 19 August 1917, 2016-0023/22

First World War Postcard (front), 13 November 1917, 2016-0023/37

Letters

The messages suggest the postcards were written between letters, probably when Frank was short of time. It must have been reassuring for Mabel to receive these regular updates that all was well. On the 9th of December 1917, he says that they are very busy, and he will try to write a letter later that day.

First World War Postcard (front), 9 December 1917, 2016-0023/41

First World War Postcard (back), 9 December 1917, 2016-0023/41

Mabel

It’s clear that Mabel regularly sent letters and parcels to Frank. Throughout his correspondence he thanks her for books, photographs, and newspaper cuttings that she has sent to him, as well as many letters and parcels. On the 2nd of August 1917, he writes: ‘Many thanks for letter of 28th July. Also the parcel, both to hand yesterday’.

First World War Postcard (front), 2 August 1917, 2016-0023/19

First World War Postcard (back), 2 August 1917, 2016-0023/19

We have one postcard that is written by Mabel to Frank. It was sent after the war, at Christmas time in 1918, whilst Frank was still stationed in France. She writes that she is happy to hear from him and that he must be enjoying the fresh open air life. She also gives him news of two people who have passed away.

‘WISHING YOU A HAPPY CHRISTMAS’ Postcard (front), 21 December 1918, 2016-0023/59

‘WISHING YOU A HAPPY CHRISTMAS’ Postcard (back), 21 December 1918, 2016-0023/59

After the war

Frank returned from France in 1919 and went back to work for the General Post Office as a sorter. He worked at Mount Pleasant Sorting Office until his retirement in 1948.

You can see more of his postcards in our current exhibition, Wish You Were Here: 151 Years of the British Postcard. Open until 2 January 2022.

– Jane King, Assistant Curator


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