Picture Postcards from the Great War

Cigarettes & Tobacco and ww1 Soldiers -  Tony Allen

ww1 Wanted a Match postcard
Published by A. VIVIAN MANSELL & Co., London. Posted on 24th July 1918 at Gretna - to an address in Cumberland.
One of the most successful and enduring fund-raising efforts of the war were the 'Smokes for the Troops' funds. On 29th October 1914, The Times announced to its readers that at Lord Kitchener's request a Smokes for Soldiers and Sailors Fund had been formed "to provide our wounded…with tobacco and cigarettes in hospitals here and at the front…and is at the moment sending regular supplies to over 200 hospitals and convalescent homes." Those who were serving at the front were not forgotten either.

To make it easier for the public to send cigarettes and tobacco to members of the B.E.F. the Post Office allowed such 'comforts' to be mailed by the cheaper letter post instead of parcel post. The French Government also consented to waive customs duty on tobacco and cigarettes addressed to British troops serving abroad. A few days later The Times said, "Those who have just returned from the front report that many of our soldiers still long for a supply of cigarettes and tobacco. To meet this need, the Weekly Dispatch has started a Tobacco Fund, and…£12,000 has already been collected. But much more is required to keep up a steady supply."
ww1 two soldiers smoking cigerettes postcards
ww1 Three soldiers smoking pipes postcard
ww1 Three soldiers smoking cigarettes postcard
These three real photographic postcards show British soldiers enjoying a cigarette or a pipe of tobacco.

Tobacco Funds

A number of tobacco funds were set up which used picture postcards in their advertising campaigns. For example, The Weekly Dispatch Tobacco Fund published at least two appeal cards, which carried the slogan "Every 6d. will gladden the  heart of a HERO." One of the cards featured the classic ‘Arf A Mo KAISER!’ sketch by Bert Thomas, which he drew in less than 15 minutes. (By the end of the war, the sketch had helped to raise more than £250,000 for charities). 
Bert Thomas smokes postcard ww1

Bert Thomas donated the original sketches on these two postcards to the Weekly Dispatch Tobacco Fund. The Daily Mail called the image on the card on the right "the funniest picture of the war", although not everyone agreed with the comment. The cards were printed at Aldershot by Gale & Polden. The one on the left was number 1312 and was posted in 1915. The card on the right was number 1293 and was posted from Chelmsford to Leeds on 1st December 1916.

Bert Thomas poster in Canada ww1
Bert Tho9mas ww1 poster England
Two more examples of the famous Bert Thomas sketch. The one on the left is a poster displayed at a collecting point for donations to Canada's Tobacco Fund - organised by the Over-Seas Club. On the right is a poster used for the same purpose - but in Britain.

The Reverend Studdert Kennedy M.C.

Soon, cheap cigarettes were as much a part of trench life as barbed wire. The Rev. Studdert Kennedy, M.C, an army chaplain, sometimes known as ‘Woodbine Willie’ (from his habit of distributing cigarettes around the front-line trenches) wrote in ROUGH RHYMES OF A PADRE; "Quarters kids us it’s the rations, And the dinners as we gets, But I know what keeps us smiling’, Its the Woodbine cigarettes."
Packet of Woodbone cigarettes
ww1 The Rev Studdert Kennedy postcard ww1
On the reverse of this postcard is printed "MADSEN'S ECCLESIASTICAL SERIES, THE BROOK, L'POOL."

The Rev. Theodore Bayley Hardy, V.C, D.S.O, M.C, asking Kennedy for advice when working with the men in the frontline, was advised, "Live with the men. Go everywhere they go. Make up your mind that you will share all their risks, and more if you can do any good...Don’t be bamboozled into believing that your proper place is behind the line; it isn’t. If you stay behind you might as well come down, you won’t do a ha’porth of good. Your place is in the front. The line is the key to the whole business. Work in the front, and they will listen to you when they come out to rest...the men will forgive you anything but lack of courage and devotion; without that you are useless. There is very little purely spiritual work, it is all muddled and mixed - but it is all spiritual. Take a box of fags in your haversack and a great deal of love in your heart, and go up to them, laugh with them, joke with them; you can pray with them sometimes, but pray for them always."

Smokes Acknowledgement cards

By early 1915, the Weekly Dispatch was joined by other national and local newspapers who established their own Tobacco Funds. For example, the Bexley Heath Observer started a fund and used a Bert Thomas cartoon on its ‘Cigarette and tobacco acknowledgement cards’. The cards were usually buff-coloured with the name and address of a subscriber entered on the front and put into a parcel of 'smokes' and sent to the front and given to a soldier. The man who received the parcel then wrote a few words of thanks to the person named on the card. It was then posted into the military postal system, which returned it to the U.K. or where ever else the gift had originated from. The Bexley Heath Observer card is shown below on the left.
ww1  This illustrated 'acknowledgement' card was returned by a soldier serving in 37 Brigade
ww1 smokes acknowledgement card by Bert Thomas
LEFT: This illustrated 'acknowledgement' card was returned by a soldier serving in 37 Brigade on the Western Front, to a girl in Standard 4, Uplands School, Bexley Heath. The 37 Brigade together with 35 and 36 formed the 12th (Eastern) Division and arrived in France on 1st June 1915. Its principal battles were Loos 1915, the Somme 1916, Arras and also Cambrai 1917 and the Somme in 1918. The tobacco fund requested the return of the card to its headquarters, if the message on the back was anything more than personal interest  it "would probably help the organiser to stimulate further subscriptions, and a lot more money is required to keep up supplies to the brave men." The message from the soldier was simply a personal "thank you".    RIGHT: The illustration on this smokes acknowledgement card is again by Bert Thomas. The card was posted at Field Post Office 53 on 19th November 1915. This was the field post office of 53 Brigade, which together with 54 and 55 formed the 18th (Eastern) Division, which arrived in France on 24th July 1915. The principal battles in which the division was involved were the Somme 1916, Ancre Operations, Ypres and Passchendaele 1917, and the Somme in 1918.
Army Post office S.11 (located at the huge British camp at Etaples)
ww1 This parcel is sent per the ‘Birmingham Gazette’
LEFT: Mailed from Army Post office S.11 (located at the huge British camp at Etaples) by a member of the B.E.F. on 17th September 1915. The card carried on the back this printed text; 'The smokes with this postcard were supplied to the Tobacco Fund by Martins, Ltd, 210, Piccadilly, London, W.' The message reads: "Thank you so much for the nice box of tobacco you sent. (I've just enjoyed a pipe of it.) Jimmie Wayne.  Pte. 2nd Royal Irish Fus."  RIGHT: Illustrated by an unnamed artist and printed on blue card the text on the back reads: "This parcel is sent per the ‘Birmingham Gazette’ with Greetings by the well-wisher whose name and address is on the other side. Will you kindly post this card with a word or two to say you received the Parcel safely."
LEFT:  This smokes acknowledgement card was posted by a member of 18 Brigade at "FIELD POST OFFICE 18" on 15th August 1916. This brigade, together with 16 and 17 formed the 6th Division. The division arrived in France on 9th September 1914 and fought at the Aisne. Other principle battles were Armentieres Oct 1914, the Somme Sep-Oct 1916,  Cambrai Nov 1917, Lys Apr 1918. After the Armistice the division entered Germany on 13th December 1918 as part of the Rhineland Occupation Force. The card also carries a CM4 type censor mark. Drawn by Lieutenant Frank Osborne the cartoon was reproduced from the 'B.A.T. Bulletin.'  RIGHT:  This card, stamped "FIELD POST OFFICE 47" and dated 15th February 1916, was mailed by a member off 47 Brigade, which with 48 and 49 formed the 16th (Irish) Division.  Part of the division arrived in France on 18th December 1915 and was completed on 24th February 1916. Principle battles were Somme Sep 1916, Ypres Aug 1917, Somme Mar-Apr 1918. The division suffered heavy casualties and was reduced to a Composite Brigade in Apr 1918 and then acted as a Training Division. The  parcel had been sent to the Front by the Countess of Courtown, Gorey, Ireland. The cartoon was "Reproduced by kind permission of the Proprietors of 'London' Punch."  The censor mark was number 2249 and type CM4

LEFT:  This acknowledgement card was mailed from “BASE POST OFFICE 1" at Have, which was a main sorting office for all post passing between the Army Postal System and other postal administrations. The office also forwarded mail in bulk to the Advanced Base Post Office (A.B.P.O.) for onward transmission. Mail at the Base Post Office (B.P.O.) was checked, weighed and handed to the censor. If not already sorted, it was sorted into categories corresponding to army branches. For example, the Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, Royal Army Medical Corps and Infantry  etc. Each category was then sorted into units. There were also lists at the B.P.O. for the redirection of mail. Bagged and labelled letters and cards was then sent to an (A.B.P.O.) for onward transmission. Note the return address of the card. Private W. Mason sent this message to the sender, "Dear Sir, Received your most wonderful gifts today for which I thank you very much they are most acceptable. Thank you again for your kindness." RIGHT: This card carries a “FIELD POST OFFICE 9” date stamp of 28th February 1915 and a type CM4 censor mark - number 1563. The date stamp was that of 9 Brigade which together with 7 and 8 made up the 3rd Division. Principle battles: Mons Aug 1914 (and retreat),  Marne Sep 1914, Aisne Sep 14, La Bassee Nov 1914, Somme 3 Jul-Aug 1916, Arras Apr-May 1917, Polygon Wood Sep 1917, Somme Mar 1918, Lys Apr 1918.  The division entered Germany on 11th December 1918 as part of the Rhine Army. Private J. R. Newton wrote, “Dear Miss Baines, I received the tobacco and cigarettes quite safe for which I thank you very much. I am sure all the men out here appreciate them very much and at the same time wishing that we could thank you personally for same.”

Concerns about Health and Tobacco

The distribution of free cigarettes was not without controversy. On 3rd October 1916 a letter appeared in The Times sent by an enlightened but worried Sir Thomas Fraser, in which he questioned the wisdom of sending huge quantities of free cigarettes to the men at the front. He wrote, "It is fully recognized by medical men that excessive smoking is injurious. It disorders the functions of the nervous and digestive systems and perhaps more emphatically of the heart and blood vessels…Is it, therefore, an actual kindness so indiscriminately and profusely to supply tobacco our gallant troops, and by so doing actually to encourage and further the habit of excessive smoking?"
ww1  comic postcard should you be smoking cigarettes
Sir Thomas was also worried that young soldiers who had never used cigarettes before joining the army were now becoming seasoned smokers because of the free distribution by Tobacco Funds. However, he relented a little, by saying "Entire deprivation is not called for", but went on, "tobacco distribution should be regarded as a ration. It should no longer be permissible to supply it indiscriminately by independent organisations or private friends, but only by them under official supervision, guided by the medical officers."

This picture postcard also expressed the danger of tobacco - albeit in a humorous way. It was printed and published by J. Salmon.
Nevertheless, many more picture postcards expressed the 'benefits' of smoking than the dangers of doing so. For example, the three featured below express the idea that smoking a pipe, cigarette or cigar would make you worry less, smile more and experience a feeling of well-being.
ww1 three postcards encouraging smoking
The talented artist Reg Maurice was responsible for these three postcard illustrations. The card on the left was number 2206 in "The REGENT Series." The centre card was number 582 in the "Wit & Wisdom Series." and posted from Croydon on 26th June 1916. The card on the right was another in "The REGENT Series" and released by the Regent Publishing Co., Ltd., London and was number 2117.

On 4th October, the day after Sir Thomas Fraser's letter condemming the use of tobacco, appeared in The Times, Evelyn Wrench, the Hon. Organiser of the The Overseas Club, replied to it "with some amazement" and said, "On behalf of one of 'the praiseworthy organizations' referred to…may I put the opposite point of few…The prevention of over smoking by individuals may surely left to military discipline…and it is in the hope of preventing any diminution in the supply that I am moved to write this letter."

The 'Honorable Organiser' gave the names of newspapers and journals, which The Overseas Club had collaborated with, in raising £165,000 from generous subscribers "for our men both in the Army and the Navy."

Two years experience had taught the club that the average soldier would sooner go without any other luxury than ‘a fag’ and there was some truth in this. Every week from the Front, commanding officers, army chaplains and even officers in the Royal Army Medical Corps sent hundreds of letters to the club "testifying to the soothing affect of the parcels of tobacco and cigarettes we forward."

For example, Lieut.-Col. Steven wrote from Mesopotamia, "In this land where nothing is locally procurable but flies! Presents of this sort are like manna from heaven." Australian Lieut. Alan Hutton wrote; "The stuff came along just at the right time - after we had just had our turn in the attack - and is very heartily appreciated by all ranks."

Second Lieutenant C. Witcombe, Gloucester Regiment, wrote from France; "I only wish you could see my men standing around our company quartermaster-sergeant as he opens the case; their eyes are 'all on' the box, I can assure you."

Major W. Mitchell, 2nd Divisional Train, France, seemed to answer the critics, of whether or not to send free smokes to the troops; "They appreciate it more than words can tell, and nothing you can send them is more welcome."

Performers lend a hand with Tobacco Fund-raising

During the summer of 1916, unscrupulous tricksters forced the government to introduce the War Charities Act, which was to provide for the registration of charities connected with the war. It was now an offense to, "Make any appeal to the public for donations or subscriptions in money or in any kind to any war charity…or to attempt to raise money for any such charity by promotion, any bazaar, sale, entertainment or exhibition, or by any similar means, unless the charity is registered under the act…Any person guilty of an offense against this act shall be liable on summery conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds, or imprisonment with or without hard labor for a term not exceeding three months." The sale of fund-raising postcards seems to have come within the confines of the act.
ww1 performers lend a hand postcard
ww1 Performers smokes fund raising postcard
ww1 actors fund raising postcard
Miss Cissie Lupino was featured on the card on the left. The Performer issued a publicity postcard telling of its tobacco fund, and considered it prudent to issue the following statement; "The Performer Tobacco Fund is a branch of the newspaper's Patriotic Fund, which is approved by the War Office and licensed by the War Charities Act 1916." The announcement went on to say that "nearly all the leading artistes are selling their photographs through 'The Performer' Tobacco Fund, you can make a souvenir collection." The postcards could be acquired in bulk lots: "5/- will buy a collection of 20 "artists…£5 will buy a collection of 500 artists, every one different." Collectors were told that every 1/- spent on the postcards would buy 3/6 worth of cigarettes for the troops. Collectors were further informed that "The military authorities…have kindly undertaken to collect and deliver the parcels to the men-at-the-front free of charge." The cards were printed in sepia and showed a head and shoulders portrait of the artist, framed by a square or oval border and a tablet bearing the performer’s signature. Each one was numbered in the bottom right hand corner, prefixed by the letter 'P'. For example, card No. P499 carried a photograph of Douglas Munro and in addition, informed the collector  that "Mr. Douglas Munro is selling his photograph for the benefit of the brave men-at-the-front…and one of these photographs is enclosed in each parcel to liven up a Dug-out." Would Mr Munro's picture have livened up a dug-out?  Miss Cissie Lupino's photograph may have!

ww1 Cigarette Cards

It was not only soldiers and civilians who enjoyed the contents of a cigarette packet. Many children did too - but for a different reason. A cigarette card was usually inserted into each packet and they were eagerly collected by children. Many subjects featured on these cards and one that was extremely popular during the 1914-1918 war, was a set of fifty cards produced by W. D. & H. O Wills. It was titled 'Military Motors.' However, there were two distinct versions of the set. The first was captioned along the bottom edge of the cards "PASSED FOR PUBLICATION BY THE PRESS CENSOR. 21-9-16." The second version did not carry the caption. On the back of each card was a full description of the vehicle featured on the front. The vehicles were British and French.
ww1 fifty cigarette cards produced by W. D. & H. O Wills and titled 'Military Motors.'

Black Cat ww1 Cigarette Cards

The tobacco company Carreras Ltd., produced an interesting set of cigarette cards which it inserted in its Black Cat cigarette packets. The images thereon were based on the wartime cartoons of the extraordinary Dutch artist Louis Raemaekers, .
Black Cat cigerette packet
Louis Raemaekers ww1 postcard
In 1916, Charles Vivian looking at this cartoon wrote, "Some neutrals, and even some of the people here in England, still doubt the reality of the German atrocities in Belgium, but Raemaekers has seen and spoken with those to whom the scene depicted in this cartoon is an ugly reality. One who understands it to the full must visualise the hands behind the thrusting rifle butts, and the aces behind the hands, as well as the praying, maddened, despairing women of the picture -  and must visualise too, the men thrust back another way, to await their fate…" Vivian said that the Dutchman’s pencil had only caught a far-off echo of the reality of the scene and the picture was another stage removed from the full horror that he drew. Not for us in England he said, but for others, "men to the right, women to the left."
Black Cat cigarette advertisement
This advertisement, featuring Raemaekers war cartoon cigarette cards, appeared in The Times on 18th October 1916.
Raemaekers ww1 postcard
This card depicted the aftermath of a Zeppelin raid on Paris. In the drawing "the artist has assembled for us in a few living figures all the actors in the incident", said Clive Holland in 1916. "The dead woman, the orphaned child…the bereaved workman…the stern faces of the Sergents de ville…and in the background other sergents, the lines of whose backs convey in a marvellous manner and with a touch of real genius the impression of tender solitude for the injured they are tending."
Black Cat Raemaekers ww1 cigarette cards
Released in 1916, there were 140 cards in the Raemaekers set and unlike most of the artists postcards, which were produced in sepia or black and white, these cigarette cards were all in colour.
ww1 postcard Raemaekers cartoon

The English caption on this postcard reads, “400 MILLIONS WAR TAX AND SOUP THROWN IN.” In December 1914, Germany ordered Belgium to pay her 480 million francs over the next twelve months. At the same time, "Every inhabitant of Belgium [would be] allowed a pint of soup a day and a loaf of brown bread." The above was typical of the irony which Raemaekers frequently displayed in his cartoons.

Children's Efforts to Help the Tobacco Funds

ww1 For the Soldiers Tobacco Fund postcard

British school children composed verses during the war to help various charity funds and their efforts were often printed onto postcards. Others would use their artistic skills and paint or draw a patriotic scene (Usually the flags of the Allies and a rousing slogan.) onto a blank postcard and sell it for a penny to fund their favorite charity.  A young artists effort can be see on the left, "FOR THE SOLDIERS' TOBACCO FUND."  The colours are as bright as the day they were painted a hundred years ago.

The "Over-seas Club."
British schoolchildren contributed to the war effort in ways other than designing and painting fund raising postcards. For example, a few weeks before Christmas 1915, the ‘Over-seas Club’ launched an appeal aimed at the children of Britain. It invited each of them to take at least one penny to school, where their teachers would set up collection points. The money collected would go to providing parcels of tobacco and cigarettes and other comforts, “so that everyone of our brave soldiers and sailors will be happy on Christmas day.” said a publicity leaflet. The appeal was a great success and each child was given a colourful certificate bearing his/her name – to show that they had contributed to the ‘Penny Fund’.

The Club had already had an appeal that year - on Empire Day, when it also awarded a certificate to participants. In 1916, in the days leading up to Empire Day and Christmas Day the Over-seas Club repeated the appeal.
empire day certificate 1915
Over-seas certificate 1915 appeal poster
Ovber-seas Club poster 1915
Christmas Day certificate 1915
1916 Empire Day certificate
Xmas Day certificate 1916
Letters to The Times, which expressed opinions both for and against the 'free smokes for the troop’s campaign’ continued to land on the editor's desk. However, those who agreed with Sir Thomas Fraser were outnumbered and Tobacco Funds and the use of tobacco by servicemen continued to thrive.


A few more ww1 Tobacco related Picture Postcards

Three ww1 postcards promoting the use of tobacco
LEFT: Released by The Regent Publishing Co., Ltd., this card was number 2751. Reg Maurice was the artist. CENTRE: The Corona Publishing Company, Blackpool, England, released this card. It it was number 1143 in the 'Regal Series.' The artist did not sign the picture. A message on the reverse reads, "Dear Uncle Tom, I helped Mr Lawrence back to the station with his kit bag but I would rather help you with yours...Kisses from Kate."  RIGHT:  This card was published by the "Art and Humour Publishing Co., Limited, Chancery Land, London. W.C. It was number 1018 in the "A & H 'Topical Tickles' Series."
ww1 postcard lighting up a cigarette
LEFT: A convalescent soldier enjoys a cigarette. "This is the time we have longed to come true, when we're together dear, just I and you." says the caption. The card was number 5122  in the ''Philco Series'.  A message in the 'stamp box' encouraged people to "INVEST in Government Securities." RIGHT "Boys of the Bulldog Breed!" A sailor and soldier light their cigarettes.  J. Salmon of Sevenoaks, printed and published the card.
ww1 Weekly Dispatch tobacco fund
LEFT: "Every 6d. will gladden the Heart of a  HERO." says this fund raising postcard from the Weekly Dispatch Tobacco Fund. "The only possible happiness we can give them is something to smoke." says  the message. CENTRE: "THERE'S NOTHING LIKE A CIGARETTE TO MAKE A SOLDIER SMILE!" says this card and it also encouraged the recipient of it to respond with a letter. Published by 'W. & F. London' it was from Series No. 3670 F RIGHT:  "KEEP SMILING!" with a reference to matches, this card was printed and published by J. Salmon. 'Elsia'  mailed the card on 30th October 1918 to 'Miss E. Betts who lived in Warwick.
ww1 Tobacco fund promotion postcard
The never ending demand by soldiers for tobacco and cigarettes, perhaps inspired the artist of this card to encourage donors to the tobacco funds to "send along some woodbines about as big as this! The card was by  'C. P. C. ' in 'Series 404.'  RIGHT: A card from the "LEST WE FORGET" FUND. Perhaps sent to donors to the fund as a thank you from postal workers.

 Agustus John and "Three on a match"

An image on a card from the fund-raising Daily Mail Official War Pictures series - captioned "A "FAG" AFTER A FIGHT" - later became famous when the popular artist Augustus John based a drawing on it.
ww1 A fag afrter a Fight postcard
A "FAG" AFTER A FIGHT.  Daily Mail card number 11 from Series 2, released in 1916. The caption on the back reads, "Before battle, in battle, and after battle our "Tommies" are ready for a fag." These men are lighting up after a scrap". The caption implies the men had just come out of a fight, but the houses, trees and road in the picture all appear untouched by shellfire. The action they had taken part in was probably a long way behind them. In the front line 'three to a match' was a dangerous habit. Two soldiers just might use one match to light their cigarettes, but if the match stayed alight any longer, an enemy sniper might just have time to take aim on the third man.
Titled "FRATERNITY" this postcard depicted Agustus John's version of the image on the Daily Mail card. The card was issued by the Imperial War Museum - probably post war

Bamforth Song Cards

Bamforths & Co, Ltd. of Holmfirth, England and New York, also got in on the act of promoting the tobacco habit with the release of a three-card set in their popular song card series. The set was titled "SMOKE CLOUDS."
ww1 Bamforth smokes song card set of three
The verse on card number one reads, "I think we are sometimes inclined to forget, What we owe to the puff of just one cigarette, Its a wonderful friend to a poor tired soul, And it helps one to think life's not bad on the whole."
Despite protests against the use of tobacco by medical men and others, the supply of free or cheap cigarettes and tobacco to the troops continued, and was for them, one of the 'comforts' of trench life.

Soldiers carried their cigarettes around in a tin, safe and dry in a tunic pocket and frequently shared with comrades, as seen on the Daily Mail card illustrated above. A British corporal Jack Turner, composed verses singing the praises of cigarettes - he called it 'FAGS'. The poem was used on show-cards advertising 'MURAD' Turkish cigarettes and the last line summed up the soldiers feeling about tobacco: "We can do without a lot of things and still win out, you bet, But I'd hate to think of soldiering without a cigarette."
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