This week’s postcard is another from the Daily Mail’s War Picture series, this time of British heavy guns in action:This image was actually used in at least two series of these cards and can also be found in a black and white version. This example is however colourised. The main focus of the image is of course the gun itself:I am not actually sure which gun the image illustrates, but it certainly seems to be particularly large and may be something like a breach loading 60 pounder. Shells for the gun can be seen being prepared to the left of the image, the shells and their propellant charges can be seen being prepared for firing:An officer and a couple of gunners stand to the right watching proceedings:A curious item sits on the ground in the foreground. I suspect that this is some sort of device for cleaning out the barrel of the gun, but I am not entirely sure so if you recognise it please comment below:The Daily Mail’s postcard series was hugely popular, as the paper was keen to report at the time:
The popularity of the Daily Mail Official War postcards was manifest yesterday. They met with a ready sale in the shops and won enthusiastic praise from the public.
Wherever the cards were displayed they attracted groups of people throughout the day, and there were many favourable comments on the extraordinary wide range of subjects, the clearness of detail, and the wealth of human and historic interest in the series.
A Chaplain’s Discovery
An interesting incident occurred at on the large West End Stores. An Army chaplain came in to see the postcards. Suddenly he came upon the postcard entitled “An Army Chaplain Tending British Graves.” With a look of surprise he bent forward and examined it more closely. The he turned to the attendant:
“As a matter of fact,” he said, “that’s myself!”
He had recognised the little field cemetery with his own figure bending over a grave in the foreground of the picture. He belonged to a famous Highland regiment. They had buried their adjutant in the field cemetery that morning, he said. He pointed to the little crosses laid on the heroes’ graves and spoke of the tender care with which the soldiers had fashioned them.
Returning British troops with captured enemy prisoners seem to have been a popular topic for the Daily Mail’s series of war postcards in World War One. These images instantly conveyed the idea of victory and the cheerful Tommy overcoming the enemy and tonight we have an example entitled ‘Gordons’ Bringing in a Wounded Prisoner’:The Gordons are of course the Gordon Highlanders and again Scottish regiments were a popular choice for postcard manufacturers with the traditional Scottish dress of the kilt being seen as more exotic than the drab khaki worn by other troops:This was a continuation of the Victorian interest in all things Scottish, when the Royal Family’s love of the highlands, tartan and traditional Scottish garb had been copied by the public at large.
The German prisoner rest so an wheeled stretcher cart, the single pair of wheels being at the balance point in the centre to allow it to be pushed along by a single man much like a costermonger’s barrow:The chap pushing the prisoner is probably the regimental stretcher bearer, and around his neck can be seen the webbing strap used to support a stretcher when it is being hand carried:This is obviously unnecessary in this instance and just lies draped conveniently round the body.
Generally speaking injured enemy soldiers were treated well on capture, men realising that it could just as easily be them lying injured behind German lines and relying on the comfort of the enemy for survival as the German soldier in front of them.
The development of powered flight before the Great War was to change the world forever and the general public quickly gained an insatiable appetite for anything to do with aircraft. This was an obvious subject matter for postcard manufacturers and together with the public’s natural patriotism made the Royal Flying Corps and obvious choice to produce postcards about.
This week’s image dates from the very start of the First World War and is titled ‘The Royal Flying Corps at X….X’:In the foreground can be seen a soldier keeping guard of the aircraft:Behind can be seen a pair of aircraft:These have been identified by a friend as being most likely BE2 aircraft. This was a single engined, two man crewed training aircraft introduced in 1912 and used throughout the First World War. It was initially used as a front-line reconnaissance aircraft and light bomber; modified as a single-seater it proved effective as a night fighter, destroying several German airships.
By late 1915, the B.E.2 was proving inadequate in defending itself against German fighters such as the then new Fokker Eindecker, leading to increased losses during the period known as the Fokker Scourge. Although by now obsolete, it had to remain in front-line service while suitable replacements were designed, tested and brought into service. Following its belated withdrawal from operations, the type served in various second line capacities, seeing use as a trainer and communications aircraft, as well as performing anti-submarine coastal patrol duties.
Behind these aircraft can be seen a large airship:The white ensign flying beneath shows this airship belongs to the RNAS rather than the RFC. Britain never used airships to the same extent as Germany and its Zepplins, however they saw sterling service patrolling the channel and on anti-submarine patrols.
This week’s postcard is another of the Daily Mail’s War Pictures series. These cards were produced during the First World War for sale to the British public. The paper paid £25000 for exclusive rights to a set of official photographs that were produced as a highly successful series of 176 postcards. Tonight we are looking at card number 56:This card is captioned “The glorious first of July 1916”- our first prisoners. It depicts German prisoners of war being passed down the lines after their capture on the first day of the Battle of the Somme:The ruins of a farmhouse are visible in the background:Whilst in the foreground British soldiers watch on curiously:These men wear the distinctive soft trench cap with its top strap. The standing man also carries a gas mask, possibly a PH hood, in a small pouch slung across his body:Unusually for this series of cards, this image was not taken by an official army photographer, but rather by a member of No 1 Printing Company, Royal Engineers. The series of cards carefully played up the few successes of the Somme battles and missed out the disasters and horrendous loss of British life, the images being carefully chosen and captioned to portray the battle in a better light with those back home. The Germans were to lose 400,000 men during the Somme fighting, including 40,000 taken prisoner. Basil Clarke was a reported for the War illustrated and described the German prisoners coming in:
On each side of the marching column were the British guards in khaki ‑ looking wonderfully spick and span both in walk and appearance compared with the untidy slouch of the prisoners. I spoke with many of [them] and asked if they were comfortable … it was much better, some said, than being in the trenches.
This card makes the third or fourth in this series I have in my collection and I am quite curious to see how easy it would be to build up a set of these cards, I have acquired another couple recently; so do not be surprised if more cards appear in the future.
This week’s photograph is a very charming World War One photograph of a sailor with a young girl, presumably his daughter:This card was posted in 1917 and it is hard to tell if it was a commercial image in the sentimental style of the day or a genuine portrait of a sailor and his daughter. I hope it is the latter, but of course it is impossible to say now. One item of interest however is the cap tally on the sailor’s cap worn by the girl:The name of the ship has been unpicked, just leaving the outline of the embroidery, whilst the initials ‘HMS’ remain. The reasoning behind this is unclear and again would be dependent on whether this is a genuine sailor’s issue cap or a photographer’s prop. If it is the latter then it has probably been unpicked to allow it to be used in portraits without any obvious connection to a vessel which could have proven awkward to the sitter. The alternative is that this is a wartime expedient for security issues, much like sailors in the Second World War had simple ‘H.M.S.’ cap tallies. If this is the case, which I suspect might be the real story, then the sailor becomes far more likely to be an actual sailor, the girl becomes his actual daughter and this is a sweet picture taken to send to relations- a far nicer story than a twee image taken just to sell postcards!