Wednesday, 7 January 2015


I inherited a bound set of The War Illustrated from my paternal grandparents. One hundred years after publication I'm exploring its pages to discover the people and their times.
"Thoughts of 'Noel' - The French Soldier Sends a Greeting from the Battlefield"
I was looking for something connected with the 1915 New Year in the War Illustrated but couldn't find anything however coinciding with my love of all things postal I thought this illustration of a French soldier sending Christmas greetings home was an appropriate one.  I have two of my  maternal Grandmother's first husband's Christmas messages to her, he never made it home.   If someone was killed or missing the letter were returned to the sender with a message on them to that fact.  The French on the other hand put a rather poignant message on their mail returned to sender "  le destinataire n’a pu être touché à temps" (the recipient could not be reached in time).

I know little about the French postal system during WW1 beyond the fact that it was sorted in the National Music Conservatory in Paris. The UK postal service of the first world war was an amazing piece of organisation delivering 12 million letter a week. At first the post was sorted by the army units in France, but it soon became apparent that it would be better to do it in the UK so they built the Home Depot sorting office in Regent's Park, London.  When completed it was the largest wooden building in the world.  The average time for a letter to be delivered to the western front was 2 days, if it did not have to be censored.  Letters were censored at the port of Le Harve and then later in Boulogne so the enemy could not learn any information from the letters, but they also had a great deal of success in catching spies this way.  Both countries of course censored mail and also provided postcards to the troops, some where there was a list of messages like this where the appropriate one was chosen

 This French card is interesting with the various theatres of war in Europe on one side:


where I suppose one indicated by number where your unit was.

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