With the recipient’s name and address appearing on one side, and the message on the reverse, this First World War Field Postcard is hardly an undivided back, but I thought it worth sharing with you, anyway.
Probably the best thing about the Field Postcards issued to members of the British Expeditionary Force was that key phrases were pre-printed on the reverse. The sender could quickly indicate to the recipient how he/she was simply by deleting those phrases which did not apply and signing and dating the card. That way, there was no danger of strategic information being disclosed, inadvertently or otherwise, and that kept the Censors happy. In case anybody thought it would be a bright idea to buck the rules, the postcards carried a stern reminder – NOTHING is to be written on this side except the date and signature of the sender. Sentences not required may be erased. If anything else is added the postcard will be destroyed. Enough to strike fear into the heart of any brave warrior, I would have thought, not least because most Field Post Cards I have come across complied fully with the regulations. However, the sender of this Field Postcard, received by an ancestor, obviously thought otherwise.
On first reading the postcard, it was good to learn that that W H S Arras was quite well on 11 January 1918 and that a letter would follow at the first opportunity. On closer inspection, however, we see that naughty Mr Arras has added that he will be “here” until 14 January.
It very quickly dawned on me that the sender’s initials “W H S” included another ancestor’s surname and that Arras must have been his actual location- naughtier still! Not content with that, “W H S” has very clearly made pencil marks on letters in the printed note about prepaid postage which spell out the word “Prison”. By some miracle, this card appears to have escaped the attention of the Censors.
I can only surmise that rather than being in prison himself until 14 January 1918, “W H S” was, perhaps, guarding POW’s in, or near Arras. I shall be asking my pals on the Great War Forum whether they can throw any light on this and will post again if anything of interest emerges