Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Snapshots of the Great War nu 2 .............Christmas cards to the Western Front December 1914

As ever it is easy to get drawn into a story and this is one of those.

The card speaks for itself, produced for the Christmas of 1914 by “Lady Rawlinson and The friends of the 4th Corps.” 

It wishes “you all a Happy Christmas and New Year success, Victory and safe return.”

Of course with hindsight we know that victory was a long way off and in the following year of 1915 4th Corps would fight at the battles of Neuve Chapelle, Aubers Ridge, Festubert and Loos.

And as this Christmas card and others in the series were being prepared, 4th Corps had also been heavily involved in the First Battle of Ypres during the October and November of 1914 which finally halted the German advance to the Channel ports.

Both sides sustained heavy losses particularly the highly experienced and trained British regular army often known as “the old Contemptibles” which had come out to France at the start of the war.

And so what starts as just a picture postcard takes on something more for many of the men who received these Christmas greetings would have been men of that regular army who had survived the fighting.

4th Corps had crossed the channel in the September and by the following month was under the command of

Sir Henry Rawlinson and it is his wife along with friends of the corps that appear on the card.

After the First Battle of Ypres the Corps was reconstituted with the 7th Infantry Division being replaced by the 8th which was formed by combining battalions returning from outposts in the British Empire.

And here that little bit of personal history enters the story, for within the 8th Division were the Sherwood Foresters and the Black Watch which were the units that my grandfather and one of my uncles served in while from 1915 the 7th included the 5th, 6th and 7th City [Manchester] Battalions along with Oldham Battalion of the Manchester Regiment.

Pictures; WE WISH YOU ALL A HAPPY XMAS AND NEW YEAR, SUCCESS, VICTORY AND SAFE RETURN and "HOORAH FOR THE KING" from the series 4TH CORPS XMAS 1914, Tuck and Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB, https://tuckdb.org/

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