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Greetings from the Front

Greetings from the Front

Vintage Sunday

December 25, 2016 Posted by | Deltiology, Social History, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vintage Sunday

Being Remembrance Sunday my first selection are some cards drawn by a WW1 serving soldier, Private Fergus Mackain and Published on the Mail Online

There is also a book of the surviving cards published on Amazon

A Tommy’s Life in the Trenches

Light-hearted and ironic in tone they often are, but these colourful postcards chronicle real life in the trenches, too.

And for the Tommies of World War I, they were one way of reassuring their loved ones back at home that they were all right, while sparing them the terror of what fighting on the Western Front was really like.

They were drawn by Private Fergus Mackain, an advertising artist who enlisted in 1915 and served in France with the Royal Fusiliers. 

Then aged 29, Mackain, a married father-of-two who was born in America to a British father from Gosport, Hampshire, travelled by sea from his home in New York to join up, working his passage by feeding livestock on the two-week voyage on board the SS Lancastrian.

After being wounded in the Somme and taken out of front-line duty in 1917, he was transferred to the Royal Army Service Corps and began producing his postcards for soldiers.

All the surviving cards Mackain drew, the majority of which are from a series called Sketches Of Tommy’s Life, were recently collected together for the first time and published in a book ahead of Remembrance Sunday.

Like the better-known Bruce Bairnsfather, another serving soldier who created a curmudgeonly British Tommy called Old Bill, Mackain uses gentle humour to underscore a grim reality.

His postcards light-heartedly follow the experiences of a soldier from training to the front line, but there is incredible poignancy, too. One shows a Tommy trudging across duckboards towards the trenches in a gloomy, forbidding landscape.

Then there are the pitfalls of life on the front line. A weeping soldier holds his head in his hands after dropping the rifle he’d spent two hours cleaning into a waterlogged trench.

Yet the determination to keep smiling never fades from Mackain’s work.

One card, part of a series called The Cheerful Tommy, depicts a soldier crouching for cover as enemy shells explode around him along with the ironically hearty messages ‘Compliments from France’ and ‘Good morning! Everything’s as right as rain!’.

In Britain, postcards that contained military or war material were censored by the Press Bureau for Censorship from September 1916. But this did not affect Mackain’s cards as they were published in France.

He was discharged from the Army, aged 32, in 1918 on medical grounds. Returning to New York, he resumed his work as an illustrator, divorced his wife and remarried in 1922.

He died at the age of 37, in 1924, from pulmonary tuberculosis, believed to have been caused by gas attacks or the ‘general conditions’ of life on the front line.

November 13, 2016 Posted by | Deltiology, Social History, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 3 Comments