In my possession is a collection of around forty WWI postcards. These belonged to my grandmother, and among them are these two silk ones. In France such cards had been used to send greetings since 1900 but it was during WWI that their popularity peaked when they became popular with soldiers who would send them to their loved ones in Britain and America. Originally hand embroidered and later machined, besides letters, the post cards were the only way to communicate with family at home. Many had no message on the reverse as they were usually sent inside letters, being considered too fragile to go through the postal system as they were. Many of the designs were patriotic and contained propaganda messages, or featured a copy of the regimental badge of the sender, but others were sentimental and might even incorporate a small pocket into which a much smaller card containing a few words could be found. The delicate embroidery is thought to have mostly been produced on rolls of silk as ‘out-work’ in French and Belgian homes. Much of the cutting and assembly work was carried out in Paris where the individual pieces were glued to plain postcards. The quality of this card was generally quite poor and today many of those which remain show signs of damage or oxidation.
Along with the silks, I also have a number of other WWI postcards. Many were sent as birthday greetings and others simply to keep in touch.
Cards were sent to my grandmother, Kitty, by her older sister, Gertrude who was amember of the UK’s Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (1917-18). Since the WAAC was sent to the French battlefields in 1917 I can only assume this as the reason she was in France during that time.
The top one of these three wishes her a Happy Birthday and is dated 15/9/17. The 15th September was Kitty’s birthday.
Others were brought back as souvenirs. Some depicted soldiers, and others showed views of Calais
This one would have been considered a touch saucy! He’s thinking that her chaste nightshirt looks ingenious.
Some were far more ‘near the mark’ but none of those made it into my grandmother’s collection!
Prisoners of War were known to write secret messages on the postcards they sent home to Britain. They might be encoded or written in invisible ink, though German mail censors began to use a brown chemical wash to show up such messages.
What a shame that the postcard has largely been relegated to the occasional note from a holiday destination.