Volunteer Manoeuvres Postcard

This week’s postcard is a little more light hearted than we usually cover, with an Edwardian humorous postcard of ‘Volunteer Manoeuvres’ doing an ‘Eyes Right’:

The girl the men are all looking at is the quintessential ‘milking maid’, a rural girl in traditional working class garb and holding a pail. The soldiers uniform is late Victorian but is likely to be put together by the photographer rather than meeting any official pattern used by a regiment. It is the soldiers’ exaggerated expressions that are particularly fun here! It is quite clear what they are thinking!

The idea of soldiers pursuing kitchen maids, or milk maids was firmly entrenched in Victorian popular culture and had a wisp of truth about it. Soldiers were young working class men, with a smart uniform and a comparatively generous pay packet and free time when compared to many working class civilians. Maids were generally young single women of the same social status and so romance between the two groups was far from uncommon. Certainly by the late Victorian period it was a common trope that appeared in literature, on the stage and in visual images such as this one.

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