Picture Postcards from the Great War

ww1 Poetry and Verse on Postcards -  Tony Allen

This small Collection of postcard poems and verse from the Great War are not from the famous middle-class war poets such as Siegfried Sasson, Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves, Edmund Blunden, Robert Brooke - the public-school officer, or Issac Rosenberg - the working-class private. Most are from ordinary people, whose only claim-to-fame was the poem or verse they wrote which was then printed on a postcard and sold – usually in support of a favourite war charity.

The book, English Poets of the First World War; A bibliography by Catherine Reilly, lists 2,225 British Great War poets, of whom 417 were in khaki. Some of the verse cards featured here were composed by soldiers, but the majority were by civilians. Besides the privately produced cards, commercial postcard publishers released verse and poetry cards in large numbers and some are shown here. Much of the verse was patriotic and over-sentimental.

The majority of ww1 postcard verse is not seen in any other medium and many verses only saw the light of day because they appeared on a postcard.

An illustrated verse ww1 postcard
This comercially produced illustrated verse card was No. 2458b in the 'National Series.'  It was mailed from Canterbury on 17th September 1914.


Before the outbreak of the 1914 conflict, 'working-class' poetry was traditionally published in local newspapers. When war came, the amateur poets willingly contributed to the national propaganda machine by sending their rousing and patriotic verses to local and also the national press.

Another outlet which the amateur poets used for their work, was the medium of the picture postcard. In the early days of the conflict, poetry and verse cards offered a way for ordinary men and women and even children, to express their patriotism. The mood of optimistic fervor with which so many people greeted the outbreak of war, provided the amateur poets an opportunity to compose verse about “heroism”, “self-sacrifice” and “doing your duty for King and Country”.

A Verse Postcard Marking the Outbreak of the War

On 28th June 1914, a young Serb nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, assassinated the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his consort during a state visit to Sarajevo. The Austrian government accused the Serbian government of complicity in the murder and on 28th July declared war on Serbia.

The following day Britain took precautionary measures including the recall of officers and men on leave and the manning of coastal defenses. During the next few days Russia, Belgium, France and Germany all began to mobilize their armed forces. Britain too, reluctantly began plans to mobilize. But it was not until 3rd August, when Germany declared war on France, and then on 4th August when Germany invaded Belgian, that direct British involvement - due to a series of treaties of 1870 - became inevitable.

Most aspects of the war were recorded on picture postcards and some on poetry and verse cards, and one, shown below, heralded the start of the Great War 1914-1918.

Britain declared war against Germany postcard
"BRITAIN DECLARED WAR AGAINST GERMANY Wednesday, August 5, 1914."  This card - in the ‘Davidsons Art Series’ - was mailed from Fife to Glasgow on 24th August 1914. The start of the war is usually recorded as 4th August 1914. On that date the British Prime Minister told the House of Commons that his government had given the Germans until midnight (their time) to "provide assurances...that Belgian neutrality would be respected." At midnight, German time, no assurances had been given, which possibly accounts for the date of this card. (In Britain it was still only 11 p.m.)

The message on this comercialy produced postcard from ‘Robert’ to ‘Alick’ reads; "I am in the pink here, hoping that you enjoyed the smoking out of the fags you got out of my drawer."

"Call to Arms" Verse Postcards

Many of the early verse cards ‘called the nation to arms’ and Harold Begbie, a well known writer, was one of the first to start the ball rolling with a poem in the Daily Chronicle  titled “FALL IN!”. It encouraged young men to join the army before the girls disowned them. Within days of its newspaper appearance the poem appeared on postcards.

Harold Begbie verse ww1 postcard
Some of the words on these two verse postcards, which feature Harolds Begbie's poem "FALL IN!", are different.  Begbie composed the poem at the beginning of the war and it was later set to music by Sir Frederic Cowan. The sheet music could be obtained "at any branch of BOOTS the CHEMISTS, price One Shilling.” The profits went to the Prince of Wales fund. The card on the right was mailed from Grimsby on 23rd November 1914, to ‘Richard Skalls Esq. Dairyman, Great Coates.’ The card on the left was No. 1839 in "The WAR Series" and was released by 'The Regent Publishing Co., Ltd., London', who was proud to announce it was "ALL BRITISH."

Two privately produced verse postcards. The poem on the card on the left, titled "To the Day", was composed by Harry Bilsborough on 17th August 1914, in the Pavilion Theatre in Morley in Yorkshire.  Proceeds from sales went to the "National Relief Fund." Bilsborough welcomed Germany's declaration of war with these words; ‘"To the Day" for years they have toasted, "To the Day” and its victories boasted, "The Day" has come - the fight has started, And from their hopes Dame Fortunes’ parted.’ However, Bilsborough's poem was a little to optimistic, for less than a week later the B.E.F. fought the Germans at Mons and after a ferocious battle there - retreated back into France with its French Allie. British school children composed verses to help various funds and one fourteen-year old boy saw his efforts appearing in print on the postcard on the right. His name was Harold Huntbach and his poem was titled "RETRIBUTION". The poem called for Germany to be severely punished for starting the war. Profits from the card went to the "Guardian Shilling Fund."

The German Invasion of Belgium

In August 1914, the German Army invaded Belgium on its way to France and many Belgians took flight. Many became homeless and some were evacuated to England. As the plight of the refugees became known, the hearts of the British public were touched and funds were set up to help them. The sale of verse cards was one of the numerous fund-raising efforts undertaken and the "Belgian Relief Fund" benefited from the sale of the two cards shown below.
ww1 Belgiun verse postcard
There are no details of the printer on the back of these two privetely produced cards, although both were sold to benefit the "Belgian Relief Fund." The verse on card on the left was composed by N. Vromans, and that on the right by E. Murphy, with "Proceeds for [the] Belgian Relief Fund." The card was dedicated to an unnamed wounded  'Belgian hero' who had died of his wounds and was buried in Leicester Cemetery early in the war. During the early weeks of the conflict many wounded and sick Belgian soldiers were evacuated across the Channel with their British counterparts to hospitals and convalescent centers in the U.K.

 Kitchener's Army

On 6th August 1914, Lord Kitchener was appointed Secretary of State for War. On the same day Mr. Asquith asked the House of Commons "to sanction an increase of the army by 500,000 men”. Next day this advertisement appeared in the press,

“Your king and country need you. A CALL TO ARMS.  An addition of 1,000,000 men to His Majesty’s Regular Army is immediately necessary in the present grave National Emergency, Lord Kitchener is confident that this appeal will be at once responded to by all those who have the safety of our Empire at heart."  

Day after day, the recruiting posters and advertisements appeared and as a surge of patriotism swept the country - the recruits came forward. On 25th August, Kitchener informed the House that the first 100,000 were “already practically secured.”  Some of the recruits further showed their patriotism by composing rousing verses and displaying them on postcards.

ww1 Kitchener verse postcard
This verse card was composed and produced by one of Kitchener's recruits at Leighton Camp.  "Composed by a Private in Lord Kitchener's Army now Stationed at Leighton." says the sub-title on the card. 'Sam' posted it from Leighton Buzzard on 28th December 1914, to an address in Darlaston. The young soldier had overstayed his Christmas leave and when he got back to camp wrote on the back "Dear Mother & Father, Just a line to let you know that I got back alright. But I was a day late. I stopped a day longer than I ought to have done. They have not said anything to me yet. It took about 14 hrs to come back. I had to go to London then come back on anther line."

The last verse was a rather optimistic view of when the war would end!
ww1 Kitchener postcards
Both these verse cards were produced by Benton and Co., 60 North Road Brighton. One in 1914, for soldiers in Shoreham Camp and one in 1915, for men training in Aldershot Camp. The Shoreham card was mailed from Brighton on 22nd September 1914, to an address in Bury-St-Edmonds. The Aldershot card was mailed from there on 9th September 1915, by a father to his young son 'Master Jack.' The wording of both poems is similar but with subtle differences.

Remembering a Soldier Away on Active Service

With flags and verse some cards encouraged men to join the army and others offered comfort to those who were left at home.
For King and Country ww1 verse postcards
The card on the left was published by G. Pickering & Co., Northampton. The verses were by E. Hutchings. The name of the publisher of the card on the right is not given. However, we know that the verses were composed by
 'P. E. M.' and the proceeds of any sales of the cards went to a local V. A. D. hospital.

ww1 Verse postcards duty and honour
Cards featuring flags and verse. The name of the publisher of the card on the left is not known. However, 'A. Alager' of Leeds composed the verses in 1916. The card on the right was published by Dennis and Sons, Ltd., Scarborough and was No. 5 in the 'Patriotic Series.'

Remembering someone left behind

Some people found in verse cards the sentiment that they wanted to convey to another but could not express it themselves. In addition, if the verse was not signed perhaps it gave more of a feeling to the receiver that their soldier had created it.

ww1 verse cards thinking of those at home
Two commercially produced verse cards. The card on the left was published by W. & C. London and was from Series No. 3272. The artist initialed the card. The card on the right carries this on the reverse, "The Cairo Postcard Trust, Cairo." and "This is a real photograph." The artist did not sign the card.

The lampooning of Kaiser Bill

From the start of the war, postcard artists and publishers were quick to choose "Kaiser Bill" as their target for satire and caricature and numerous cards lampooning him and his son "Little Willie" were on sale in the postcard racks within days of the commencement of hostilities. Many cards lampooning the Kaiser did so in verse and examples are shown here.
The Kaiser's Iron Cross verse postcard
"The Kaiser's Iron Cross" The details of the printer and publisher of this verse card (deriding the German Iron Cross) are not given. The card was posted in Chelmsford on 30th March 1915. It was from a soldier who wrote, "Dear Dad & Mother & Vic, I think we set sail from Bristol. We are off today Tue afternoon. I send my cardigan jacket for you there. A mess tin lid for you to use for the fowls. Good Bye, Love to you all from Wilf."
The Kaiser's Dream ww1 verse postcard

Two verse cards titled "The Kaiser's Dream" both expressed the same sentiment - but with some words changed. The card on the left was published by 'E. Mack, King Henry's Road, London, N. W.'  There are no publishers details on the reverse of the card on the right, but in pencil was written "This is a good one for Sister F. Lorrie." It seems the verses from one of the cards had been pirated from the other! 

The firm of J. Bamforth & Co., Ltd.  produced over 80 cards – printed in black on a light background – in their anti-Kaiser "War Cartoons" series. The artist did not sign the illustrations which were dramatic and showed sharp political humour. The German monarch appeared as himself on some cards and in various guises on others, including a goat, goose, cow, child, rabbit, dog, and clergyman. Many of the cards in the series carried an illustration and verse, based on a popular nursery rhyme and two are illustrated below. The artist is thought to have been the ever popular Reg Maurice who was a resident artist with Bamforth for over 40 years.
Bamforth ww1 anti-Kaiser ww1 postcards
Two anti-Kaiser cards on the 'Belgium pie' concept. The rhyme card on the left was number 5016 in the Bamforth series of eighty. The Belgium pie card shown on the right, was number 5024 in the series.
Kaiser Bill as a German sausage ww1 postcard
The illustrated verse card on the left was published by The East London Printing Co., London.  Composed by 'Willy' Winkle, the verses on the card on the right were to be sung to the tune of  'Good-Bye, Dolly Grey' - a popular music hall song. There are no publishers details on the reverse.
To the Day Kaiser Bill verse card
Anti-Kaiser verse card
"To the Day---of Reckoning with Kaiser Bill" says the heading on the verse card on the right. It was initialed by 'P. D. J.' and was from the "Pilot" Office, RhyI and posted from the town on 15th September 1915. In November 1916,  J. Jaggard composed and published the poem on the card on the right. Jaggard lived at '6, Dalkeith Road, Dulwich, S.E.' and all profits from sales went to the "Weekly Dispatch Tobacco Fund."

Life in the Trainning Camps

Probably the most prolific type of verse card produced during the conflict was those that gave satirical descriptions of army camps and a soldier’s life in them. In 1914/15, as Kitchener's men trained in the military camps at home, enterprising publishers released a number of cards of verses relating to individual camps - with each named on the top of the card. One publisher used the same poem on a number of cards, with the name of the camp at the top of the card and also placed within the text. Frequently, some of the words were different. Examples for "Sutton Veny Camp" and "Brocton Camp" are shown below. There are no publisher's details on either card.

sutton veny and brocton camps on ww1 verse cards

Some of the text on these two cards was not the same, although the sentiment clearly was. Other verse cards that carried similar text included; "Crowborough camp". "Larkhill Camp", "Southwick Camp", "Rugeley Camp", "Brockton Camp" and "Gooden Camp",  A card that could be used from any camp was titled "At Our Camp." There were almost certain to be other named camps in this series of verse cards.

Lathem Park and Tidworth camps on ww1 verse cards

Two privately produced cards. The card on the left carried a light-hearted verse composed by 'F. J. W.' of what life was like at Lathom Park Camp. The card on the right composed by 'Jimmy W.', gave a flavour of life at Tidworth camp and at the end of the poem the soldier was wishing the war was over and that he was "...back at home."

A card from a Series of Verse cards and a message

Sometimes a simple message on a postcard would convey the heartbreak being endured by the sender. Such a card is the one featured below.
RAMC verse card
This Royal Army Medical Corps verse card was from a series dedicated to a number of army corps. The card was not postally used but had being sent in an envelope. A hand- written message on the front said, "Poor dear Alex gave his life 12 months ago 1st December 1914." It continued on the reverse. "Dearest Will, I am sending this card in memory of my dear Brother Alex. I thought you would like to have a card of the corps he belonged. I am sending one to each of my brothers. Love to you my dear Son. From your loving mother."

The card was printed and published by J. Salmon of Sevenoaks, England.

Edith Cavell Remembered

Edith Cavell, the daughter of a Norfolk clergyman entered the London Hospital in 1895 as a probationer and afterwards nursed in England for several years. In 1907, she was appointed matron of the Berkendael Medical Institute in Brussels, which she transformed into a highly regarded teaching hospital.

After the outbreak of war in 1914, the hospital came under the auspices of the Belgian Red Cross. However, Cavell and her staff not only aided the sick and wounded but also gave sanctuary to escaping allied soldiers. In August 1915, Cavell was arrested by the Germans for "harboring aliens and helping them to escape." In due course, she was sentenced to death, and despite diplomatic efforts to save her was shot by firing squad on 12th October 1915. Just before her death she said, "Standing as I do in view of God and Eternity, I realize that patriotism is not enough."

Cavell’s execution was a gift to the British propaganda machine, coming as it did just a few months after the sinking of the Lusitania. The amateur poets were quick to put pen to paper in their praise of Nurse Edith Cavell and many of their verses appeared in local and national newspapers and some, inevitably - found their way onto postcards.

ww1 Edith Cavell postcard

The verses on the card on the left were by Archibald MacCallum and first appeared in the Glasgow Weekly Herald in November 1915. The name of the publisher of the card is not given. However, we are told that the card was in the 'Dixon-Shaw Series.' "To the Memory of Edith Cavell." The verses on the card on the right were composed by a serving soldier - Lewis V. Baker who served in the 'Third Field Bakuy (sic) Bakery ?

In Memory of the Girls with Yellow Hands

Working in munitions during the conflict was obviously extremely dangerous and during the war there were explosions at several factories in Britain. There were other health risks too. For example, recommendations were made that no woman under 18 years of age or over 40 should work with Trinitrotoluene (T.N.T.). T.N.T. produced in those handling it, a strange discolouration of the skin and hair which turned bright yellow and sometimes the latter turned bright ginger. It could "not be washed out but just wore off" - said a worker and those affected in this way were commonly known as "Canaries." Other medical disorders attributed to working with T.N.T. included loss of memory, delirium, convulsions and even coma. In 1916, a postcard of verses was published which was dedicated to "THE GIRLS WITH YELLOW HANDS". 

the girls with yellow hands ww1 postcard
England's Gallant Munition Girls ww1 postcard
"THE GIRLS WITH YELLOW HANDS." Printed in 1916 by Austin of Faversham, the card on the left praised the essential war work the munitions girls were doing. The card on the right was "Composed by Pte. G. McDonnell, [a] discharge soldier." and titled “To the Cherished Memory of ENGLAND’S Gallant Munition Girls.” The verse referred to a terrible disaster which took place on 1st July 1918 at Chilwell munitions factory in Nottingham. It was the biggest loss of life through a single explosion during the war. One hundred and thirty four workers were killed and over 250 more injured. The Chilwell ammunition works was the country’s most productive filling factory. Over 10,000 people worked there, many of them were women who often worked 12-hour shifts for 30 shillings a week. The Government tried to keep the incident low key and newspaper reports suggested that around 60 people had been killed. Most of the dead - and body parts - were buried in a mass grave in a nearby village. The cause of the explosion was officially given as an accident but there were many who thought the real reason was sabotage - including Viscount Chetwynd who had set up the factory in 1915. Although the name of the factory did not appear on the postcard, the correct date did, and therefore guaranteed that the memory of those who died in the tragedy lived on - through a simple picture postcard.
ww1 vberse about the munitions workers
Two commercially produced verse cards depicting the munitions girls tri-angular "On War Service" badge with verse. The card on the left was published by "B.B. Ltd., London." in "Series No. W.M." The card on the right was number '7628-L' in the "Rotary Photographic Series" and was a "Real Photograph" according to printed details on the back of the card
ww1 verse cards to army and navy
These two verse cards praised the ordinary men of the British Army and Navy and were from a set of six. The remainder of the set featured military and naval leaders and praised them in verse too. The photographs were taken by Stephen Cribb of Southsea, for the firm 'B. B. London.' The cards were "Manufactured in their London factory." as "Series B."

Verse and illustrations laughing at the military

Comic verse cards that poked fun at the military were popular both with soldiers and the public. So too were those carrying limericks and two are shown below.
ww1 postcard limerick
limerick on a ww1 postcard

The card on the left was by an unknown publisher - but signed 'T.P.' by the artist. The card on the right was anonymous.

The Death of Lord Kitchener

One of the most shocking news reports to confront the British public during the Great War was the sudden and unexpected death of Lord Kitchener. Poems and verses celebrating the life and deeds of Kitchener inevitably followed and at the forefront were those composed by ordinary people and featured on postcards.
In Memoriam to kitchener verse card
This 1916 verse  tribute to Lord Kitchener, expressed what many people felt at the time. It was composed by a soldier. "Pte E. C. Plastow. 1/5 Lincoln Regt."

On Monday 5th June 1916, Lord Kitchener sailed from Thurso to Scapa Flow aboard the destroyer H.M.S. Royal Oak. He was on a mission to St. Petersburg to persuade the Czar and his generals to remain in the war. On arrival at Scapa Flow, Kitchener was met by Admiral Jellicoe and other officers of the Grand Fleet and dined on the Admirals flagship before he and his staff boarded H.M.S. Hampshire.

Hampshire set sail for Russia at 4.40pm accompanied by two escort destroyers H.M.S. Victor and H.M.S. Unity. As a storm began to rage, the two slower destroyers were unable to keep up with Hampshire and returned to base, leaving the faster vessel to plough on into a force nine gale. Just a few miles into her voyage, Hampshire hit a mine and within ten minutes had sunk.

There were only twelve survivors from a crew of 655 and Kitcheners' party of seven. Kitchener was not among them.

Later, it was reported that a week before the incident the German submarine U75 had laid 36 mines in the area.

ww1 verse card to Kitchener
We are told that the card on the left was composed by Lizzie Warren and the proceeds from sales would benefit the Comforts for Troops Fund. The composer of the verses on the card on the right left no clue to his/her name - simply the initials "M .V. S"

For some time after Lord Kitchener’s death there were a number of fanciful rumours circulating that he had not gone down with the Hampshire when it sank in June 1916, but had survived. One even suggested Kitchener had been spirited away to a secret place, from where he was planning a master-stroke which would end the war.

Verse cards for the Home Front

Numerous cards appeared in verse that praised the stoicism of the public in a time of hardship.
ww1 postcard verse from the home front
The card on the left was published by "W. & K. London E.C." and was from "Series No. 4280." The card on the right was mailed from Garforth, Leeds, to an address in Harrogate on 22nd January 1918. A message reads, "Garforth coals tonight, they will burn extra." The card was from the "National Series." by 'M. & L, Ltd., and was number '1006'. There are no artist's details on either card.

Fund-raising through Verse

As we have seen above, some women in the fund-raising movement composed verses which were produced as postcards and then sold as fund raisers. Another verser was Mrs Backhouse of Leeds. She had observed convalescent soldiers in the centre of the city and felt compelled to compose verses to raise funds to support them.  One of her poems was titled "LEST WE FORGET" and was reproduced on a folding postcard shown here.
Lest we forget ww1 verse postcard
Mrs Backhouse's effort in verse "FOR THE WOUNDED SOLDIERS."  Printed on the back of this double size postcard is this, "Written and composed by Mrs. E. Backhouse, 14 Altofs Place, Beeston Hill, Leeds. Mrs. Backhouse has received letters of thanks for her efforts from the King and Queen, the Prince of Wales, Princess Mary and lord Kitchener." The printer was a local firm, B. Glyde.

Many of the privately produced cards that carried just a poem appeared rather bland and some publishers got over this by placing above the poem, crossed union jack flags or flags of the Allies, which added a little colour to the card. Examples are shown below.

ww1 postcard verse to aid wounded soldiers
The verse card on the left "Written in aid of Winter Comforts for our local lads" was composed by M. Wilding on 25th October 1915. The local lads mentioned on the card were from Preston in Lancashire. The card on the right was composed by A. J .Tanner of Towngate Street, Poole and was probably sold early in the war in support of wounded Belgian soldiers convalescing in Poole Hospital.

Zeppelin Raids and the Gordons at Hooge

ww1 postcard verse to a Zepp raid

The card on the left carries the title “The Zeppelin Raid.” and mentions in verse an incident that occurred in the month of September. Which year of the war- it does not mention. One of the most famous Zeppelin raids that took place over Britain was on the 3rd September 1916, when pilot 2nd Lieutenant William Leefe Robinson shot down the airship SL-11 over the village of Cuffley. The blazing wreck landed behind the Plough Inn and was the first airship shot down on British soil. Robinson received a Victoria Cross for his actions that day. A number of artist’s impressions of the incident also appeared on picture postcards. Could the above incident be the one commemorated on the verse card – Perhaps! There were other Zeppelin raids in September of other years too. For instance, on 7th September 1915, an airship dropped several dozen small bombs on Cheshunt and destroyed a row of greenhouses which had probably been mistaken for factory roofs. Could this have been the raid commemorated on the postcard?  The raid on Hull on 2nd September 1917 – is another example. The defenders of this northern port on the East Coast were ready for the Zepp when it approached the city on 2nd September and opened fire on it, forcing the airship to retreat without dropping a single bomb. But three weeks later on the 24th September the Zepps returned. The night visibility was bad and the anti-aircraft gunners were unable to fend off the attack. Forty-four bombs were dropped on Hull and 16 people were killed that September night.  It seems fair to suggest that the verse card referred to the Hull raid, because printed at the bottom of the card is this, “Waller, Printer. Queen Street, Hull.”

Verses Dedicated to the Amy Service Corps

Verses with details of the activities of the Army Service Corps (A.S.C.) and other units appeared on postcards. Two cards praising the A. S. C. are shown below. A member of a field ambulance unit who had contact with the corps wrote "For those at Home or across the sea, God bless the men of the A.S.C."
ww1 postcard verse to the A.S.C.
The poem on the left was reproduced by kind permission of Ireland's Saturday Night and praised the activities of the Army Service Corps (A.S.C.). The card on the right is another singing the praises of the A.S.C. It was composed by J.F. Daniel who was a member of 144th Field Ambulance. Williams of 231 Pentonville Road printed the card.

The Cross at Neuve Chapelle and the Battle of Cambrai

Occasionally, verse cards from the Great War told of battles or actions in which the British Army was involved. Two such cards, one commemorating the Battle of Neuve Chapelle and the second the battle of Cambrai in October 1918, are illustrated below.

ww1 verse postcard Neave Chapelle
The card on the left, titled "The Lonely Cross at Neuve Chapelle." was composed and printed by M. Wheeler of 44 Foxhall Road, Nottingham. Below the title it reads, "A striking feature in connection with the fighting in Neuve chapelle is that amid the ruins stands untouched a lonely cross on which is a figure of Christ." The cross referred to, was situated at a cross-road in Neuve Chapelle and was used as a marker by German gunners to shell the British positions there. The card on the right carried a poem composed by M. Hoban which told of the Battle of Cambrai in October 1918.

Verse in Aid of Funds for the Blinded

On Christmas Day 1915, The Illustrated London News informed its readers that, "in a corner of London's most beautiful park is a house where miracles are worked." It was to this house that soldiers and sailors were brought who had suffered the cruelest injury that war could inflict ‑ they had been blinded. The house was in Regent's Park and it was St Dunstan's Hostel.

The world famous organization housed in the park issued a number of fund‑raising picture postcards during the Great War. Many charities and individuals supported St. Dunstan's and the work it did and one of the methods they used was to compose a verse or poem, print it on a postcard and sell it for one or two pence.

Verse postcards in support of blinded soldiers

The fund-raising verse card on the left was sold "IN AID of THE FUNDS of ST. DUNSTAN'S BLINDED SOLDIERS' & SAILORS' HOSTEL."  The card on the right carried verses by L. Jones of Sileby and the proceeds from sales went to "...our blind Soldiers and sailors."

Verse in support of the Y.M.C.A.

In November 1914, the War Office permitted the Young Men's Christian Association (Y.M.C.A.) to join the British expeditionary Force on the Continent and the Red Triangle appeared at the great bases at Havre, Rouen, Calais, Boulogne and Etaples and the advanced base at Abbeville. In those areas it organized sports, lectures and concerts for the soldiers on rest there. Once the Y.M.C.A. was established on the Lines of Communication, it began to prepare for the inevitable call that would take it into areas near the front. By 1916 over 180 centres had been constructed near the front line. One centre - the Treopwood Hut - was within one mile of the enemy and was hit by shell and shrapnel over 50 times before it was eventually destroyed by German artillery. Perilous though their position was, Y.M.C.A. workers continued to serve and maintain the huts near the battle-zone. The Y.M.C.A.’s ‘open-door’ policy and the ‘home for home’ atmosphere it cultivated in the huts, played a major part in helping to keep morale high among the troops and its contribution to the war effort was of monumental importance. The compoiser of a poetry card shown below obviously thought so too. 

ww1 YMCA verse card
ww1 postcard YMCA verse
The verse on the card on the left was composed by Argyle Galloway of Brighton and praised the Y.M.C.A. hut workers. It borrowed the popular Y.M. slogan "Home from Home." as its title. Funds generated by the sale of the cards went to the "Y.M.C.A. Work in Sussex Camps."

 Verses in Support of Prisoners of War

The plight of prisoners of War was not forgotten by the verse composers and their efforts appeared on cards which were sold by private individuals and charities in support of the prisoners.

Verse postcards  in support of Prisoners of War
The card on the right called the Empire to arms and expressed hatred for the Germans and mentioned the sinking of the Lusitania - although not naming the vessel. The sales of the card included funds for prisoners of War in Germany. The card on the left was  released just after the Armistice was signed in November 1918, and with optimistic sentiments welcomed returning prisoners of war.

The Aftermath of the War

At 11.00 a.m. on 11th November 1918, hostilities came to a sudden end. On 24th November, the Prime Minister Lloyd George told the British people his task was now "to make Britain a fit land for heroes to live in." As the military forces demobilised, returning soldiers boosted the economy with their gratuities, but the post-war boon lasted only until the end of 1919, and the vision of the land fit for heroes began to fade. The 'twenties' were a period of industrial unrest; the General Strike of 1926 was only one of a series of strikes in the early post-war years.

The disability of war wounds and rising unemployment forced many desperate ex-servicemen to turn to begging on the streets or knocking on doors hoping to be given a few hours manual work. Some ex-soldiers earned a few coppers selling bootlaces and matches, and - of course - postcards!

Verse cards in support of disabled soldiers
The verse on the card on the left was composed by an ex-soldier "who was disabled for life through wounds received at the Dardanelles." He had been called to the colours on the first day of the war. The card on the right was a tribute "In Memory of our Discharged Heroes." and the composer asked that his verses were not copied by others. Which unfortunitly did happen!

"I heard my country calling."

Three variations of a Disabled Soldier's Appeal ww1 verse card

The poem, "I heard my country calling" first appeared in the Hackney Spectator on 7th May 1917. The same verse was printed on each of these three postcards and the accompanying  message was the same -  but presented differently on each. In addition, the name of an ex-soldier was printed on the bottom right hand corner of each card. The card in the foreground was offered to the public for two pence - by Charles Booth, ex-West Riding Regiment, who was out of work and in desperate need of help!

ex-service mens ww1 appeal card in verse
The verses on the card on the right, captioned; "REFLECTIONS ON WAR By a Discharged Soldier" were "Written whilst in hospital in France on the night of July 1st 1916." by Pte. J. Gledhill, Army Service Corps, Motor Transport. The casualties suffered that day by the British Army had been the worst in its history and Pte. Gledhill had been there. (The first day of the Battle of the Somme 1916.) The card on the left was another from an ex-serviceman pleading for work or failing that, then "help him by buying this card." For further supplies of the card ex-servicemen simply contacted the printer W. Ackroyd of Sowerby Bridge.

Ten Years After

On 11th November 1918, the Armistice was signed and ten years later many ex-servicemen were still suffering from the effects of the Great War either through sickness, disablement or unemployment. This appeal card was dedicated to the memory of Sir Douglas Haig and was intended to help an ex-serviceman find a job or at least raise a few coppers from the sale of it.
Lest We Forget Earl Haig appeal card in verse
ww1 posrcaerd of General Sir Douglas Haig
Ten years after the great war had finished huge numbers of ex-servicemen were in dire need of help and Kelletts Printers of 15 King Street, Lancaster, were on hand to print an appeal card for those desperate men. The card on the right, portraying General Sir Douglas Haig, was from a set featuring Allied generals. The captions were in English and French. Although the publisher and the artist are unknown, we are told on the back of the cards that they were of  "All British Manufacturer."

At the outbreak of the Great War, Sir Douglas Haig was given command of 1 Corps and was one the few who believed that the conflict would be long and bloody. In December 1915, he succeeded Sir John French as commander of British forces. In 1916, Haig was in charge of the offensive with which he is most often associated, The Battle of the Somme. Much has been written since, both for and against Haig's military tactics during the conflict, but after the war and for the remainder of his life, he put all his energy into the welfare of ex-servicemen. Winston Churchill later said; "although he [Haig] might have been unequal to the task he had been given, there was probably no General who at the time would have been a more obvious candidate."

Douglas Haig died in January 1928 - "BELOVED BY ALL EX-SERVICEMEN."

The poetry and verse cards described and shown on this page are a few of the examples of the genre which can sometimes be found in dealer's stocks today. They are surely worth preserving, as presumably each helped in a small way to alleviate the distress and suffering of one of the many hundreds of thousands of soldiers, sailors and civilians in the 'War to end War.' What other type of picture postcard has that distinction?
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