Picture Postcards from the Great War

WW1 Patriotic and Jingoistic Postcards

Tony Allen

During the First World War, propaganda was one of the ways by which the government persuaded the public to support it. Firstly, by gaining enthusiasm and active approval from the population when it declared war against Germany, and secondly, by maintaining the support of the troops and public while the conflict lasted. British 'paper propaganda' took many forms and the picture postcard was one. It was an ideal vehicle for promoting propaganda both official and un-official.

Within days of the outbreak of the conflict, some publishers had realised the commercial potential of projecting stirring images of patriotism and rallying cries to the flag, on their picture postcards and soon had their artists at work.
colourful postcard of Lord Kitchener

Patriotic postcards were on sale within a week of the declaration of hostilities and well before the first British troops landed in France. Two early patriotic cards are illustrated below. Both postmarked 23rd September 1914, they superbly reflected the patriotic fervor being expressed in Britain in the late summer and autumn of 1914.

postcard of soldiers of the empire
postcard of britain and her allies
england knows that every man will do his duty
The jingoistic card on the left - by an unknown artist - brought together the fighting forces of Canada, Australia, India and Great Britain who displayed a determination "To see it through." It was published by the "INTER-ART Co. Kinofilm House, Red Lion Square, London, W.C." and was number 793 in its 'Patriotic Series 11.' The verse on the card came from a song of 1878, sung by supporters of a pro-Turkish policy, and it was here that the idea of  the word 'Jingoism' first appeared. A message on the back reads,"Just a patriotic p.c. to wish you many happy years yet - hoping reading about the war is not distressing you." The words on the card on the right were clearly a pun on Nelson's famous line. It was illustrated by 'G.A.S.' and was number 7 in "PHOTOCHROM'S Red White and Blue Series." The card was mailed from Hedon to York on 23rd September 1914 and carried the following message, "Dear Alice, Please let me know how Roland is getting on. I heard on Monday he was wounded - I hope it is nothing serious. Anyway he will be out of the fighting line for a bit. Regards Fred." The centre card implied that "FOR THE PEACE OF THE WORLD" the Allies should unite and with ships and the British lion - would finish off the enemy.

Promoting patriotism was one aspect of propaganda and bright and colourful postcards on this theme appeared in abundance. For instance, a set of three cards in the 'Bamforth's Song Card' series is a splendid example and the set is shown below.

 three Bamforth's song cards display a number of patriotic images
postcard image of brittania
land of hope and glory postcard

This set of three Bamforth's song cards displayed a number of patriotic images. For example, a map shaded in red, depicted those country's that made up the British Empire. Each card had a different version of the image of Britannia. Symbols of strength were depicted - the British lion, the bulldog and the Royal Navy, There was an image of the Imperial Crown, The Union Flag and a flag carrying the symbols of Scotland, Wales and Ireland were displayed. There was a depiction of the vanquished enemy. And of course the stirring verses of "Land of hope and glory"

By sending patriotic postcards widely and in great numbers, the public obligingly distributed the patriotic message to the men at the front and to each other. The message of postcard patriotism cost the Government nothing and cards were often sent for there colourful picture alone.

ww1 are we downhearted postcard

Numerous patriotic slogans and rallying cries appeared on postcards, with calls asking "ARE WE DOWNHEARTED?" to which the reply was a resounding "NO!!!" This card was number 1247 in the 'H.B. Series'.and rather curiously depicts a group of young men waving an older generation off to war. The artist's initials appear on the card - but who was he?

During the first patriotic wave of 1914, cards appeared which displayed images of the national flag and it was portrayed in a number of imaginative ways. For instance, card number 702, published by 'E.J.H. & Co.' in their 'Ludgate Series', depicted a 'jack tar' standing in front of a huge Union Jack, and saying "When you're ready, Kaiser." The artist was T. GILSON.

A card by 'BROWN  & CALDER' and illustrated by J.L. BIGGER, depicted a wounded Tommy amidst a scene of battlefield desolation. In one hand he held a pistol while in the other a large union jack. Below the picture was the legend "British to the backbone." Above, was a quote from Lord KITCHENER, which said "We are proud of you". Other slogans with appeared on patriotic cards were "For king and Country", "Rally round the flag boys","Do or die", and "United we stand for the dear homeland."

A British soldier and sailor - back to back with a Union Flag between them postcard
A |British soldier and sailor clasp hands postcard

"UNITED WE STAND"  Flags of the Allies and hands across the sea. A British soldier and sailor - back to back with a Union Flag between them - face the enemy with bayonets at the ready. A |British soldier and sailor clasp hands as warplanes and ships move around the coast of the British Isles.

Bright and colourful picture postcards which carried slogans similar to those mentioned above, helped to fuel the patriotism and jingoism which was widespread in the first months of the war.

ww1 soldier holding union flag postcard
ww1 for king and country postcard
ww1 british to the backbone postcard

The three
patriotic cards shown above, made full use of the the Union Flag, as did the three featured below.

ww1 guarding the old flag postcard
ww1 do or die postcard
the yorkshire lads are guarding the old flag postcard
The patriotic card on the left - "Guarding the Old Flag!" - was printed and published by J. SALMON of Sevenoaks. The artist is unknown. The card on the right was painted by C. T. HOWARD and again published by SALMON.. There are at least two other versions of the card. Both carried the original picture but the text is different. The first said, "Don't be alarmed, the Warwicks are on guard at Warwick." And the second praised the Irish Brigade "on the plains of France and Belgium, And at the retreat from Mons." The card in the center was in the 'NATIONAL SERIES' and was number 2469F.

guarding the old flag 1
guarding the old flag 2
guarding the old flag 3

A number of patriotic cards on other pages on this site, called upon the British Empire to come and support the Mother Country. The cards displayed flags and symbols of Britain and her colonies. Here are a few more.

Some of the most popular images in this category of picture postcard, were those featuring an adult lion calling its cubs to respond to its call.

ww1 lions in front of union flag postcard
ww1 responding to the call postcard
englands call to arms postcard
ww1 lions and union jack postcard

A patriotic card from 'Boots the Chemist'

the glory of a lion is his mane postcard

"The Glory of a Lion is his Mane." The card on the left was published by 'Boots the Chemist'. The card on the right is a hand-drawn copy of the former. It was probably done by a child and sold for one penny, with the proceeds going to a good cause.

In 1914, not long after the outbreak of the Great War, the chain of Boots the Chemist printed and published the fund-raising postcard.  Captioned 'The Glory of a Lion is his Mane', it was a clever drawing, which upon close inspection of the lions mane reveals the names of Britain’s colonies who were flocking to her aid.

The card was described as "A TRIBUTE TO OUR COLONIES" and was published for the benefit of the Prince of Wales National Relief Fund. A statement on the back said it was; "a happy conception of Mr. William Armitage, the artist." The firm had been "favoured with an order from Her Majesty Queen Alexandra for two gross of these cards, and she has graciously expressed her wish that they may have a large sale." It seems Her Majesty's wish was probably granted, as the cards are quite easy to find today!

The example of the 'Boots' card was mailed from Cardiff on 6th October 1914,  to an address in Ilfracombe. An inscription on the back of it said; "THE MANE IS NOT MERELY A GLORIOUS ORNAMENT BUT A REAL PROTECTION TO A LION."   On 30th September 1914, family member Jessie Boot, was confident the card would be extremely popular with the public and said; "We are selling them at 10d. per dozen, and give half this amount, that is 5d. on each dozen, to the Fund. We hope to sell one million cards, in which case something like £1,750 will be contributed to the benefit of the Fund." The postcards were on sale at every branch of Boots and had already raised over £525.

By 1916 - and certainly by the start of the Battle of the Somme - the production of patriotic and jingoistic picture postcards had declined dramatically. In fact, even by the autumn of 1915, far fewer of this type of card were appearing in the postcard racks. It seems the public had finally understood the harsh reality of war.


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