Assistant Curator Jane showcases a selection of First World War postcards that have recently joined our collection.

In 2019 we received a donation of postcards which included several examples from the First World War. A few of these are on display in our current exhibition, Wish You Were Here: 151 Years of the British Postcard. This blog looks at some of the rest.

‘Remembrance’ Postcard (front) 2020-0003.30

‘Remembrance’ Postcard (back) 2020-0003.30

Embroidered Silk Postcards

Embroidered silk postcards were popular with British soldiers during the First World War. This donation includes three, addressed to someone called Annie, that are probably from that period. Silk postcards were made in France and Belgium. The designs were hand-embroidered by people at home and then sent to a factory to be pasted into a card. They were sold to soldiers at army camps and shops. Designs often included regimental crests, like this one here for the Lancashire Fusiliers.

‘LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS’ Embroidered Silk Postcard (front) 2020-0003.33

Others were more sentimental, like this colourful example depicting flowers and an envelope sealed with a red heart. It was sent to Annie by someone named James. He presumably left a kiss on the card for her, as he writes on the back ‘if the kiss is dry, wet it’.

‘SEALED WITH A KISS’ Embroidered Silk Postcard (front) 2020-0003.34

‘SEALED WITH A KISS’ Embroidered Silk Postcard (back) 2020-0003.34

The same person probably sent this one to Annie as well, which is written ‘from a friend [somewhere] in France’.

‘SOUVENIR FROM FRANCE’ Embroidered Silk Postcard (front) 2020-0003.32

‘SOUVENIR FROM FRANCE’ Embroidered Silk Postcard (back) 2020-0003.32

Embroidered postcards would have been fragile to send in the post on their own and were often sent alongside a letter. I’m curious to know what happened to any letters these may have come with.

Photographic Postcards

The donation also includes these postcards, that were made by the London based Philco Publishing Company. They depict a young soldier saying goodbye to a loved one. He poses confidently in his uniform, with a verse printed alongside. One of these was sent to Annie, ‘with best love’ from someone called Bob.

‘To One I Love’ Postcard (front) 2020-0003.19

‘To One I Love’ Postcard (back) 2020-0003.19

‘Far – yet near’ Postcard (front) 2020-0003.21

Postcard Song Sets

We also received several postcard song sets, which consist of a group of cards in a thin paper envelope. Each group illustrates a popular song from the day with the lyrics printed alongside it. These were made by Bamforth & Company Limited, which were based in Yorkshire.

‘Farewell, my Soldier Boy’ Postcard (front) 2020-0003.44a

‘Farewell, my Soldier Boy’ Postcard (front) 2020-0003.44b

‘Farewell, my Soldier Boy’ Postcard (front) 2020-0003.44c

‘Farewell, my Soldier Boy’ Envelope (front) 2020-0003.44d

This set depicts a woman waiting for a soldier to return. She sits in a leafy garden, holding a rose that he gave her while he appears in a thought bubble above.

‘Only a Faded Rose’ Postcard (front) 2020-0003.42a

‘Only a Faded Rose’ Postcard (front) 2020-0003.42b

‘Only a Faded Rose’ Postcard (front) 2020-0003.42c

Nearly all the song sets have quite a sombre tone. They depict families and partners waiting for soldiers to return, or servicemen thinking about home. These examples below from different sets show soldiers who are missing their loved ones.

‘GOD GUARD YOU’ Postcard (front) 2020-0003.49a

‘Sweet Adeline’ Postcard (front) 2020-0003.43b

‘WHEN I COME BACK TO YOU’ Postcard (front) 2020-0003.58c

‘When the War is Over, Mother Dear’ Postcard (front) 2020-0003.41a

Unfortunately, these song cards don’t have messages on the back. They could have been sent alongside a letter, or simply collected as a keepsake.

This wonderful collection of postcards will be available to explore on our online catalogue soon.

Jane King, Assistant Curator

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