This year my family has been delving into our history, trying to put together a comprehensive family tree. The most rewarding aspect for me, has been seeing the personal side of our family members.
Over the past week, my uncle uploaded many photos and postcards to our family tree. I was so moved to discover these family postcards from WW1. Rupert and Thomas were brothers (my Great Uncles), both serving in France. They were both lost within 4 months of each other in 1918. Thomas was 28. Rupert was just 21.
Thomas sent these cards home. From what I can make out, he was still in England at this point. He speaks of 6 days isolation (I think for mumps prevention), training, jam and butter being expensive and the presence of a great many flying machines. Mostly, however, he speaks of home. All 4 cards are addressed to his brothers and sister... asking about school, the crops and how many rabbits there are about. My grandfather (Thomas and Rupert's brother) was obviously very young at the time... Thomas asks if he has learnt to milk yet and urges him to help on the home front however he can.
The following were sent home by Rupert... The card at the bottom is an official French photograph from Newspaper Illustrations Ltd. The content of the letters show the difference in Rupert's age. He speaks of the Brigade and Battalian sports they have organised. One card is simply instructions to his Mum, to give his "light boots" to Jack as well as a list of who he has sent cards to. He also mentions how the crops in France are ready to harvest... but the farmers will lose a large proportion, due to the crop's proximity to "the line". The presence of all those extra mouths to feed would have taken a toll on the local community too, I'm sure. What difficult times.
These next cards are from Rupert also, but they only have names on the back. These are for all the embroiderers out there!!! This kind of embroidered postcard is known as a "silk". Just look at all the work in them!
During WW1 silk postcards and handkerchiefs were popular purchases as souvenirs for Australian soldiers who were serving on the Western Front. They were mostly embroidered by French and Belgian women refugees who worked in their homes and refugee camps. They sent the finished strips, containing up to 25 embroidered pieces, to factories for cutting and mounting on postcards. In France and Belgium the postcards were available as items for sale in regimental canteens. There were two kinds of cards, one was a piece of embroidered silk mounted onto a card and the other was two pieces of silk sewn and mounted to form a pocket to contain a message or a silk handkerchief. I found this information here and here, where you can also see more silks.
I have to say, I find it difficult to post the following card. But, it shows the whole truth. It is with respect, gratitude and pride, we remember not just the fact that our young men perished. We also remember the deep loss felt by those left at home. The mothers, fathers, the brothers and sisters and the community as a whole. I can't imagine, how my Grandfather felt, the day he found out that his brothers weren't coming back. Charles and Agnes Roberts lost two sons that year... as did so many other Australian families.
The memorial service after WW1 in Tooborac, Central Victoria.
I also want to acknowledge the many wars that have come and gone, since that time... and in fact the wars that still continue. It is a great sacrifice indeed, that our soldiers and their families make. Trying to protect a way of life and bring our world to a point of peace and fair existence.