Saturday, 20 November 2010

World War I - the power of postcards

A couple of the famous Bamforth WWI song series cards which sweethearts sent to the Trenches to uplift their loved ones with cheery thoughts of how they were dying for their country which was far superior to mere worldly love and asking them to wait for them 'on the other side' etc. If they wanted to be more explicit they could always use the language of stamp positions listed below, though the War Office soon put a stop to this insisting on direct franking of the cards for postage instead. Cards veered from the mawkish to the maudlin to the patriotic, sometimes quite grotesquely. These examples (spotted at a recent Antiques Fair) represent the entirety of my collection. My friend Lorna Pearson has hundreds, many showing the same players, even wearing the same clothes, only differently hand-tinted and/or coiffured to appear different. She suspects real soldiers were used and hired together with uniform for the day when on leave. Some sets are identical in all but blood - which is shown in the early version, but wiped off in the later version, doubtless under War Office edicts.

Stamp Positions & Meaning

Upside down, top left corner = I love you

Crosswise on top left corner = My heart is another's

Centre of envelope, at top = Yes

Center of envelope, at bottom = No

Straight up and down, any position = Goodbye sweetheart

Upside down, top right corner = Write no more

At right angle, top right corner = Do you love me?

At right angle, top left corner = I hate you

Upright top right corner = I desire your friendship

Upright in line with surname = Accept my love

Upside down in line with surname = I am engaged

At right angle in line with the surname = I long to see you

Centred on right edge = Write immediately!


Steve said...

What is most interesting about these postcards isn't the social history but the simple humanity behind them.

Owen said...

Fascinating, I'd never heard of the system of stamp positioning on the card being a message in itself... some of which messages must not have been fun to receive... With all the millions of men who were mobilized and sent to the front, there must have been a hell of alot of cards getting sent.

Tessa said...

What Owen said - fascinating. Although I have to admit that, were I a Tommy and received one of those cards, I'd have been tempted to take a run over the top in the hope an enemy sniper would take me out of my misery ...

Wisewebwoman said...

Boy they sure could have used emoticons, hm?

The Sagittarian said...

That coding was very interesting to read about, fascinating story! I love old postcards, they seem more like wee works of art and social commentary than what is available now.

Nota Bene said...

The Boy has just come back from a school trip to the Battlefields in France and I'm sure he'll appreciate seeing this. I love the stamps thing...just like smileys on mobile phones :-)

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Steve, yes, there is something touching about them, despite all the manipulation.

Owen, no, it's quite striking to note how undesirable some of the stamp messages would have been to receive! In addition, I wonder how many people got the code wrong and managed to send the complete opposite of the message they intended to send!

Tessa, I am sure a few of them had entirely that reaction, depending on the message received.

Very droll WWW! ; -)

Sagittarian, quite right - there is so much less thought and soul poured into our written missives nowadays.

Notabene. That's very sweet of you. I hope The Boy enjoyed it. He might also be interested to know the Victorians had a similar language re flowers and what it meant to give various colours and types as a message.