The King at the Front Postcard

This week’s postcard is another from the Daily Mail’s hugely popular series of War Pictures that were produced and collected by the British Public during World War One. This particular example depicts King George V and King Albert of Belgium, both in military uniform during a visit to the front:

This image is drawn directly from a photograph taken of the men and the artist has clearly painted over this image and worked on the background slightly, but the identical poses of the kings are clear:

The King visited the frontline many times, first meeting Albert in the field near the Belgian border on a visit as early as 1914 and returning to see how the war was progressing many times throughout the war. Although this caused difficulties for his staff, who naturally feared for his safety, the visits were well received by the troops and allowed the King to get a clear insight into how the war was going for the ordinary soldier in a way that written dispatches would not. The King’s visits were not entirely without incident either. In October 1915 the King went to see the aftermath of the Battle of Loos with Sir John French, the British commander. On October 28th, near the end of his visit, the King went to inspect the 1st Wing of the Royal Flying Corps.  A sudden cheer from the men there frightened the King’s horse, which reared up and then slipped on the muddy ground, falling and pinning the King underneath her.  His pelvis was fractured in two places, leaving the King in great pain.  His doctors were unsure of the extent of the injuries, and did not want to risk transporting him any considerable distance until they were sure.  Sir John French, however, was concerned for the King’s safety so near the front line, especially if the Germans were to discover where he was.  French attempted to convince the doctors to evacuate the King, and, when this failed, sent a message to the King himself.  The King, at this point under heavy sedation, responded brusquely: “Tell Sir John to go to hell.”

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