Sunday, 19 July 2015

French Postcards of World War One Damage

Regular readers may remember my series on this blog following the exploits of Edgar Pedley who served in the Signals Corps in World War One. We last heard from him way back in November 2014 when I featured a postcard that he sent back home to his friends Arthur and Mrs Storr, whom he lodged with.

There's a gap in his messages, or at least in the ones I have, but he will return as, whilst he survived the war, the army has not yet finished with him, and after a spot of leave he will be returning to mainland Europe.

In the meantime, here are a few postcards from the First World War that some other soldier brought back as souvenirs. These haven't been written on apart from some brief comments in pencil. I bought these from a stall in an antiques warehouse.

The first three are part of a French series, presumably a large one as this is number 304 in the series. It show the ruined church of Pervyse in Belgium where the Germans reached at the end of October 1914 at the close of the two-month long Battle of the Yser. The Belgians had put up a strong resistance and the land behind the German advance was deliberately flooded. Two sluiceworkers, Karel Cogge and Hendrik Geeraert became national heroes of Belgium for the part they played in the flooding. Once the Germans realised that water was rising behind them they withdrew south, leaving a sliver of unoccupied Belgium.

Written on the back of the postcard in faded pencil is the laconic comment: "This was once a decent church".

The gap left following the destruction of a group of houses at Pargny-sur-Saulx during the First Battle of the Marne in 1914. The Germans had been pushed back from the brink of initial success. After the Battle of Mons the British and French armies had retreated almost to Paris before the tide was turned and for the first time motorised units, in the form of 600 taxi cabs transported 5 soldiers each from Paris to the battle front. To comply with city regulations their meters were running and the French Treasury paid a total of 70,012 francs... The battle ended with both armies trying to push back the northern flank of their opponents, starting what is now called the "Race for the Sea" and effectively forming hundreds of miles of opposing armies and setting the scene for the ensuing trench warfare.

Written in pencil on the back of the postcard is: "Another decent mess (somebody's home)"

From the same battle, this postcard shows the village of Heiltz-le-Maurupt. The card is labelled "Boche Kulture - Magasin pillé et incendié" ("Hun Culture - a store pillaged and burned") Both Boche and Hun were terms for German. On the rear in pencil is written "Good work by Germhun artillery" (underlining as per the original writer's pencil work).

This postcard is from a different series, probably produced for sale to British soldiers as both the caption on the front and longer description on the rear are printed in english. On the front: "Arras. The Cathedral Interior, showing the Bishop's Throne." On the rear: "Arras. - The interior of the cathedral, renowned for the beauty of its architecture, now reduced to a heap of ruins by German artillery."

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