As we approach Christmas, I thought I would share a selection of the First World War Christmas cards that have been sent to me, for one reason or another, over the years.
These cards are of two types—those commissioned with an appropriate theme for a unit or formation, and those produced locally for soldiers to buy. The locally produced cards were made to a very high standard and were not confined to Christmas greetings. Made year-round as general souvenirs and to commemorate specific events, many were embroidered in rich colours with patriotic designs. Early in the war the embroidery, on silk organza or similar fine material, was done by women as piecework for companies who then mounted the embroidery on cards with printed messages. Later, the popularity of the cards resulted in machine embroidered cards assembled in factories. It is commonly estimated that as many as 10 million such cards were produced during the war, mainly in France.
The card below was sent home at Christmas 1915 by Private John Atwell of ‘B’ Company, 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers. Atwell was wounded in 1916 and 1917 and captured in March 1918. His brother Edward lost his right leg because of wounds suffered on 1 July 1916.
This card was sent home, also in 1915, by Sergeant Henry Fox, who became the Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant of 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers in February 1917, incredibly aged only 20 years old. He was wounded in 1917.
16th Royal Irish Rifles, the Pioneer Battalion of 36th (Ulster) Division, commissioned this card for Christmas 1915, the Battalion’s first Christmas in France. This card was sent to ‘Mother, Sister and Brother‘ by Private Robert Sergeant.Most of those of whom I have written were killed or wounded in 1916 and I don’t have a 1916 card in my collection. The next card was sent home to his wife at Christmas 1917 by Captain Jim Partridge. He had joined 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers in December 1916 and earned the Military Cross during the Battle of Cambrai. He was killed in action in March 1918. Note the amendment to the front of the card.