Explore Your Archive: Document of the Day

Military Postcards in the Maynooth University Library Collection

by Alexandra Caccamo, Assistant Librarian with Responsibility for Special Collections and Archives, MU Library

For Explore Your Archives week, I am going to focus on a small collection of military themed postcards. The images on the postcards are of a long-gone era and range from military regiments and army barracks to World War I postcards. Of the thirty-two postcards in the collection only a handful have written messages, the rest may have been collected as keepsakes.

With the outbreak of World War I, commercial companies quickly began to print wartime themed postcards. One such company was Bamforth & Company Limited based in Yorkshire, who are probably better known for their bawdy seaside postcards. However, during the War they produced a more restrained product, the postcard set. These sets or series of postcards depicted popular songs or hymns. Almost all of them are quite poignant and show soldiers deployed overseas or their concerned loved ones, like the examples pictured here.

There is also a series of postcards showing the British army in ceremonial dress. Some of these were painted by the military artist and illustrator, Ernest Ibbetson (1877-1959). The postcards in our collection are of Irish regiments in the British army, such as 5th Royal Irish Lancers. They are numbered on the back and were probably part of series. There are also two postcards printed by Raphael Tuck & Sons. These so-called “oilettes” were printed to resemble miniature oil paintings.

As mentioned, the collection of postcards at Maynooth are mostly blank, but there are four which include messages. One with an image of the Curragh Camp, was sent from someone who seems to be missing their loved one. It says:

‘Dear A, Arrived safely on Sat. about noon of course it was raining over here. Am not in the best of spirits. Hoping you are all quite well. Best Love, A.’

Another postcard contains a very prosaic message, telling the recipient what to order from the butcher! This reflects the use of postcards as a quick and cheap means of communication.

‘Please tell Stratton that we shall not have anyone to the house next week. So I only want her to order 4lbs topside of Beef….from the butchers. Best love xxx from Mummy.’

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