‘Somewhere in France’ was the vague address given by countless numbers of servicemen and nurses when writing to family and friends during the First World War. Censorship of locations was vital to avoid information falling into enemy hands.
Postcards were the favoured means of corresponding with loved ones. In France and Belgium colourful and beautifully hand-stitched cards were cheap and readily available. Their delicate designs sending messages of love and friendship were a stark contrast to the harshness and reality of life in the trenches. Favoured floral designs included forget-me-nots, violets and pansies with bluebirds and butterflies, while others of a more patriotic nature featured flags, portraits of Allied leaders and regimental badges. Originally local women created the silk hand-embroidered postcards at home, but increased demand led factories in Paris to mass produce the cards, with an estimated ten million cards being produced during the war.
Frequently written in pencil, the cards were a vital link with home, conveying brief messages such as the joy of receiving comforts parcels, unexpectedly meeting old friends, the changing weather and anticipated leave. Sometimes news of a more sombre tone was passed on – the death of a mate or the unpleasantness of trench life.
The ten framed cards in the collection of the Gawler National Trust Museum were written by Sergeant Frederick Clarence Ayling, 33rd Battalion, to various family members in Australia. Prior to his enlistment in May 1916 he worked as a mason in Gawler.
Sergeant Ayling was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for distinguished gallantry and devotion to duty at Road Wood, south-west of Bouchavesnes, on August 31st 1918. After the war ended he took advantage of his leave in England to attend a three-month building and construction course at the Northern Polytechnic Institute at Holloway in London before returning to Australia in July 1919.
Gawler National Trust Museum
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