Fight the Good Fight Postcards

In 1863 John Samuel Bewley Monsell was inspired by Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy in the King James Bible to write the hymn ‘Fight the Good Fight’, Chapter 6, Verse 12 reads, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses” and this became the basis for his lyrics, which when set to music by William Boyd was published in Hymns of Love and Praise for the Church’s Year. The phrase, and by extension the meaning of the hymn refers to the idea of doing something righteous and keeping it at it, regardless of the bumps in the road and travails along the way. By the First World War, the hymn was well established as a favourite amongst many church goers and with the Great War couched in terms of a British fight to hold back the ‘Prussian’ evil and its ‘kultur’ the words had added resonance to a nation who felt they were fighting a literal fight with God on their side against a great evil. It is therefore perhaps unsurprising that postcard manufacturers of the day latched on to this popular hymn and combined its words with appropriate martial and religious iconography to produce a popular set of postcards. As was traditional for sets of verse cards at the time, each card has a single verse of the hymn and the idea was to collect the set of four:

The images chosen link the words to the military setting with a church parade at the front leading to the officer looking to the Lord for guidance on the eve of battle, having a moment of doubt or reflection before finally having done his duty Christ comes to him in his final moments. The images play into that typical Edwardian love of the sentimental and the wholesome and there is an implicit understanding that God is on the side of the British running throughout the set. Church attendance was much higher at the turn of the century, but the reasons for attendance were varied, as recalled by this piece of doggerel verse found in an autograph book of a munitions worker in Gretna in World War One:

Some go to church just for a walk

Some go to church to stare and laugh and talk

Some go to church to meet a friend

Some go to church some spare time to spend

Some to scan a robe or bonnet

And to price the ribbon on it

Some go there to snooze and nod

And few to meet and worship God

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