The Final Weekly Postcard No. 60

And so we come to the last Weekly Postcard, which is a mega-bonanza of a postcard post, and brings the total number of cards I have shared with you since we began the Daily Postcard series seventeen weeks ago to 230. 

Photographs of destruction are probably as common as any subject when it comes to Great War postcards, if for no other reason than that there was little cost involved in photographing abandoned buildings, and there were one hell of a lot of them to photograph.  And many cards show just that, buildings shattered by shellfire, the wreckage of war, here in the form of an Alsace village after bombardment by the Germen (serious question; what do you think the item in the foreground, bottom right, is?  Not so serious question; what is a Germen?  I’m going for a mythical beast.  Or, more correctly, it would appear, a believed mythical beast!).

But many also capture a human moment in time, such as the French soldier crossing the canal in the bottom right corner, and the men making their way down the street in the background,…

…or these British soldiers unwittingly snapped having a chat outside a half-demolished church in Péronne,…

…or these Germans posing amidst the rubble of a church in Raucourt in the Ardennes.  And it’s the human element that makes me treasure cards such as these, and why we finish our series with them.

French soldiers photographed in the ruins of Neuville St. Vaast, five miles north of Arras, and today the site of the largest German war cemetery in France.  Note how both photographer and most of his subjects are keeping their heads well below the height of the sandbag parapet behind them, the line of sniper shields (captured German ones, I think) that top the sandbag wall on the left leaving little doubt that this photograph is taken in the French front line.

These Germans are posing on what appears to be a village midden – nach der Schlacht – after the Battle (which battle, who knows, but the photograph was probably taken in 1915, and certainly no later).  The identity of wherever the picture was taken has been erased by the German censor.

French troops marching through the village of Herbécourt,…

…and American journalists in Ham, both on the Somme.

British soldiers, horses, and a limber amidst the ruins of Péronne,…

…and in the main square, the famous sign that the Germans left attached to the remains of the Hotel de Ville after their withdrawal from the city in March 1917, translated on the card as ‘Don’t be angry, but only admire’.  You may remember we visited Péronne a couple of years back; the hotel is still there (now the town hall) and you can remind yourselves, should you wish, here.

British despatch riders await orders in shattered Péronne.  The other thing about these cards, and correct me if I’m wrong here, is that it seems to me that postcard photographs seldom seem to find their way into books unless used to illustrate a feature on Great War postcards.  This also applies to an extent to the interweb – try finding this picture, for example.  I’ve seen tens of thousands of Great War photographs, most likely we all have, yet most of these pictures were new to me when I first acquired each of these cards.

Plenty of civilians still, and soldiers, amidst the ruins of Baccarat, in the Vosges,…

…and also here in Sézanne on the Marne (note the attempt made to censor the town’s name),…

…and even in the wreckage of Albert, on the Somme.  And not so far away,…

…this card shows German troops and French civilians at one of the quarries outside Beaumont Hamel, very close to the front lines,…

…as you can see here on this map extract, the German front line trenches marked in red, with the quarries marked in orange (and the famous Sunken Lane in pink – click the link for that particular story).

Three miles north of Beaumont Hamel, two Frenchmen stand in front of the ruined church at Hébuterne,…

…and here, still on the Somme, French troops trudge through the destroyed village of Dompierre.

The ruins of Rehainviller, fifteen miles south east of Nancy in Lorraine.  Was this once her house?

German troops in an undamaged Suippes, on the Marne,…

…and French troops in a not-so-easily recognisable Suippes later in the war.

Germans pose for the camera in the ruins of Vaudesincourt, also on the Marne,…

…as they do here in the main street of Cheppy, on the Meuse.

And to end, German troops in Sedan, forty four years after their previous occupation,…

…although, forty miles away, and despite the longest battle in modern history, the city of Verdun would remain beyond their grasp.


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12 Responses to The Final Weekly Postcard No. 60

  1. 2nd. card:”what do you think the item in the foreground, bottom right, is?”
    A damaged cart:

  2. Nick Kilner says:

    Tremendous! What an incredible series this has been. Thank you for sharing these wonderful cards with us, they’ve been amazing. This final series is absolutely superb.
    In your question are you referring to the mobile hay feeder or the concrete lintel which appears to have been formed against corrugated iron?

    • Magicfingers says:

      And thank you for enjoying them!! I was referring to the mobile hay feeder, which I think looks incredibly like an A-Frame for trench construction, except I knew it couldn’t be, hence my question. Thanks for answering.

  3. Morag Lindsay Sutherland says:

    simply brilliant -and thank you on behalf of us all

  4. Jon T says:

    A fine selection to end with MF and all of these postcard posts have been fascinating as they have shone a light on so many different facets of the war from the sublime to the ridiculous and the horrific in turn.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thanks Jon. There’ll be the odd postcard post in the future – I think I have at least one example of all the British censor’s marks, which changed from time-to-time, from the war, so that might be of interest – but otherwise we’re heading back to Flanders very soon.

      • Jon T says:

        Have been hoping to personally be back in Flanders and the Somme in September but with this darn virus situation just not sure now.

        So much more I want to see and revisit as well – often inspired by what I see and read here.

  5. Magicfingers says:

    That’s what I like to hear! I had a chat with Baldrick this week but I can’t see me going over again this year, but I did manage a January trip, so mustn’t grumble. And I still have plenty of stuff where I have visited but not yet got round to writing about.

  6. Margaret Draycott says:

    Was going to say what Nick said re the cards have really enjoyed I think now you saved the best to the end, a fascinating look at the destruction of so many towns, villages some I have visited the Phoenix have risen from the ashes.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thank you very much M. There’ll probably be more from time-to-time. They are quite good ‘fillers’, which was a term we used in advertising referring to advertising space in a magazine that was unsold and had to be ‘filled’ with something – you probably know all that. So if I have nothing to post at some future point, “I know, show ’em a few postcards”. A bit like a filler. Lol.

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