A certain supermarket’s Christmas advert (cough, Sainsbury’s, cough) which depicts the Christmas Truce of 1914 has had us all talking about representations of war, but there’s much more to Christmas on the front line than that one event.
The British Army recognized the importance of morale-boosting mail deliveries, and Lord Northcliffe urged the public to keep soldiers “well supplied with news and loving words” – over two billion letters and postcards were delivered by the end of the war. Among them, the specially designed postcards produced by commercial outlets, and the hand-drawn cards from soldiers, are remarkable artefacts of four Christmasses spent at war…
1. In the run up to the first Christmas of WW1, publishers began selling festive postcards with patriotic and militaristic designs, like these from the ‘Patriotic Series’ produced by J. Salmon
2. Or this one from the anti-Kaiser ‘War Cartoons’ series produced by Bamforth & Co. Ltd
3. Meanwhile back in the trenches, the soldiers of the 4th division produced this card
4.Some were more lifelike, like this one produced by John Beadle in 1915
5. Others, supposedly designed by ‘our Tommies’, were actually produced as part of an increasingly sophisticated propaganda campaign, raising hope that that it would take ‘just one more push’ after the British army suffered over 60,000 casualties at the Battle of Loos in Autumn 1915
6. While this one, produced by Sir Henry Rawlinson of the IV Corps, carried a not-so-subtle warning to his troops that the Christmas truce and feasting of 1914 was not to be repeated
7. By 1916, some prisoners of war had been interred for three years, and they were sending their own messages of hope
8. In 1917, the 46th (North Midland) Division made this card showing soldiers crossing no-man’s land, illuminated by a flare or shell
9. While this Christmas card was produced as a souvenir of the occupation of Jerusalem by British forces on December 9, 1917
10. By Christmas 1918, the war was declared over, but of course, that did not mean the end of British military involvement on the continent
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