Picture Postcards from the Great War

The story behind a Great War postcard - Tony Allen

The Boy Scout - A Hero's Fate Postcard
ww1 postcard The Boy Scout - A Hero's Fate

The artist Edward Jagger, based this card - titled “A HERO’S FATE.” - on a drawing. Printed details on the back reveal that it was “Issued through the boy scout movement...” The remainder of the sentence on the card has been obliterated with an over‑stamp, but with good eyesight the words “in aid of local relief funds.” can be made out. Printed by 'Adams Bros. & Shadlow Ltd., printers, Leicester and London', it was published by 'Castle Studios, Hollinwood.' There is additional printed information on the card, such as ”THE BOY SCOUT MOVEMENT OF FRANCE ‑ an episode during the great war.”


More information about the scout was published in the War Illustrated on 26th December 1914, as well as a similar, but somewhat different artist’s impression of the hero’s fate. The story of the boy scout’s death was brought to the attention of readers, it was said, by an extract from a dead German officer's letter. He allegedly wrote, “A traitor has just been shot!”

The officer then told a story of a column of German troops who were marching through a wooded area in occupied France, when they spotted a boy scout. He was called over and asked, whether “the French were about.” He refused to give any information, fifty yards further on the soldiers were fired on from the cover of some trees. The scout was held and was asked in French, if he “had known that the enemy was in the forest.” This time he did not deny it. The letter said what happened next. “He went with a firm step to a telegraph post, and stood up against it, with the green vine‑yards at his back, and received the volley of the firing‑party with a proud smile on his face. Infatuated wretch! It was a pity to see such wasted courage.”

In 1917, the founder of the Scout Association, Baden Powell, asked in an American magazine called Boys Life in America, “Was it a wasted death ? I am sure it was not.” The article was titled 'Playing the game', and in it, the Founder said to his readers, “In France where they live in the anxious atmosphere of war, the boy scouts have proved themselves to be of sterner, stronger stuff than anyone had suspected. the stories are endless of the scouts who have got away and joined the forces in their fighting and have done good work as first aiders to the wounded men.”

The chief scout told his readers that one case stood out above all others and told the story of the boy who was shot by the telegraph post. He went on, “He only had to say what he knew and he would have saved himself, but he was plucky, he was a scout. He played the game. He gave his life that he should not give the side away.” In the eyes of his contemporaries the French boy scout was a hero, and deemed worthy of remembrance on a postcard, but no one seems to have remembered his name. Was this because the execution atrocity was a piece of manufactured story telling - from the British or French propaganda Agencies?


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