As mentioned elsewhere on this site, the Daily Mail Official War Postcards eBook could be a useful source of information for those studying a number of ww1 interests. Here for example, is how The Guide might benefit Family Historians and Genealogists in their never-ending search for information.
Many Family Historians have photographs of ancestors in military uniform who served in the Great War; but do not have images of the areas and locations where they served. For instance, did your soldier ancestor take part in the Battle of the Somme in 1916? Well, there is a series of picture postcards named the "Daily Mail Official War Pictures" and after looking at the collection, you may consider that a few of the cards would make a splendid representation and commemoration of the time your ancestor spent on the Western Front. The Daily Mail newspaper published the cards between August 1916 and April 1917. They are still easy to find and reasonably priced at between £1- £5 each.
A number of the Mail cards carried photographs of named units and regiments and just as people in 1916, recognised family and friends among the soldiers depicted on the cards, maybe is it still possible to do that today. Could you find an image of your grandfather or great-grandfather on a picture in the collection? A long-shot perhaps - but not impossible !
"EAST YORKS GOING INTO THE TRENCHES" This is card No.101 from series 13. The caption on the reverse says, "Men of the gallant East Yorkshire Regiment marching up to the trenches the night before the attack, are delighted to meet the camera man."
"A GALLANT RESCUE UNDER FIRE. THIS MAN SAVED TWENTY LIVES LIKE THIS." Card No. 16 from series 2. It depicts the rescue of a wounded soldier taken from no-mans-land. On 29th July 1916, The War Illustrated, featured this photograph on its front page and described it as, "THE BEAUTIFUL SIDE OF WAR." and said it was an, "actual photograph of a British soldier bringing in a wounded comrade out of danger. Though all the time under heavy fire this great hero saved as many as twenty stricken men in this war". On 7th October 1916, under the heading "Postcard Hero", the Daily Mail published the following report, "Much interest has been aroused in postcard number 16...it now turns out that the gallant rescuer is Driver Tom Spencer, who enlisted shortly after war broke out..." Apparently, Tom's mother recognised his picture on the postcard and told the newspaper.
What did your grandfather do in the Great War?
Perhaps your grandfather was an artillery gunner before, during or after the Battle of the Somme. There are several splendid colour pictures in the Daily Mail Battle Pictures/Daily mail Official War Pictures collection of the 'big guns' in action, any of which you could use to illustrate a WW1 archive.
If you are lucky enough to have letters or postcards mailed from France by your WW1 ancestor, is there any record of him having seen the King there? King George V visited thousands of his troops in France several times during the conflict. "The King at the Front" was series 11 in the collection and was devoted entirely to depictions of the King's August 1916 visit and produced in the coloured format. Series 12, for some extraordinary reason was an exact repetition of the eight pictures of the King's visit in the proceeding series, except that this time they were in photogravure. A comparison of the two series shows that some of the colour reproductions had been 'touched up' or 'improved'. Any one of these cards would be a good illustration of your ancestors sighting of the King on his tour of the Front.
Is there a record of your ancestor been given the task of guarding German prisoners of war ? There were seven cards in the collection with titles like, "The Glorious 1st of July, 1916 - OUR FIRST PRISONERS", "THIRSTY GERMAN PRISONERS IN THEIR BARBED WIRE CAGE" and "TAKING IN PRISONERS DURING THE GREAT ADVANCE". Interestingly, postcard No.1 in the collection and the last one - No.176, both featured captured German soldiers.
In the Daily Mail Official War Pictures collection, there are scenes from the trenches with which you could illustrate your soldier's time there. For example, card No. 12 was in colour and depicted "Tommy's lookout in a captured German trench at Ovillers" Card No.116 from series 15 depicted "Keeping a sharp look out" and depicted a soldier on observation duty watching the enemy's movements through a loophole in a wall of sand-bags.
Anzac's in France
Was your ancestor one of the ANZACS who served on the Western Front during the Somme offensive? In January 1917, two new series got a mention in The Times. They were titled "ANZACS IN FRANCE" and "They were numbered 19 (Australian) and 20 (New Zealand) respectively and each contained eight photographs in photogravure." Titles included, "OVER THE TOP", "CROSSING NO MAN'S LAND", "A WIRING PARTY GOING FORWARD",
Was your ancestor a medic or an army chaplain during the 1916 offensive? There were a number of cards in the collection depicting both these occupations. For instance, "R.A.M.C. PICKING UP WOUNDED IN A CAPTURED VILLAGE", "HELPING AN AMBULANCE THROUGH THE MUD", "A CHAPLAIN WRITING HOME FOR TOMMY", "CHURCH SERVICE BEFORE BATTLE", "A Burial on the Battlefield" and "THE BURIAL OF TWO BRITISH SOLDIERS ON THE BATTLEFIELD" On 16th September, the Daily Mail drew attention to this card and told its readers the names of the men. They are named in The Guide.
If your soldier was wounded in the Somme battles, he was probably transported from there by horse-drawn or motor ambulance. There are two pictures in colour of these vehicles and the destruction all around them is evident. (The banner at the top of this page is one of the images)
The Daily Mail continued to publish the cards as the battles raged on the Western Front in 1916. They are a tangible and physical link with that period of the conflict. But even better - perhaps you could find the face of your WW1 ancestor on one of the cards!
A lost Great War postcard found after 85 years
Here is an example of how an image of a soldier on a WW1 postcard was re-united eighty-five years later with his descendents. The 'clipping' shown above, was from an article published in a family history magazine about 10 years ago. The (rather long) title to the piece was "Illustrate your family History with Postcards from the Great War" and as an example, I took the topic of wartime medical services to illustrate the point and said, "Was your WW1 ancestor a medic or nurse or a convalescent serviceman and if so, why not illustrate the fact in your 1914-1918 photographic records." In addition, "you could seek out photographic cards of military hospitals - both in the UK and on the Western Front, - where your ancestor had worked or had been a convalescent."
One of the images used to illustrate the article mentioned, was a 'real photographic' postcard, as opposed to 'printed photographic' - the format of the Daily Mail cards , and is shown above. It shows five wounded soldiers all wearing different cap badges and 'hospital blue' uniforms in an unnamed hospital or local photographic studio.
The order for copies probably did not amount to more than two or three per soldier, but over the years this type of photographic postcard was often lost or destroyed (family historians know this only to well) leaving perhaps - who knows - two or three copies of the image and often only one. But again, to get back to the point, shortly after the above postcard image appeared in the magazine, a lady wrote saying she had recognised the face of her grandfather among the group of soldiers and his name, which was among those written on the back, simply confirmed that she was right. I was delighted to send her a copy of the postcard. I think what I am trying to say here, is that images of our ancestors can and do turn up at the most unexpected times and places.
The scramble for the Daily Mail cards
In September 1916, As soon as the first cards arrived in the postcard racks, people were searching for the face of their husband, father, brother, son or uncle. On 7th September 1917, the day after the release of the first 80 cards, the Mail said, "From 11 o'clock the previous morning the papers branch offices had been an astonishing spectacle of high-tide work. The printer's vans had delivered postcards as fast as they could unload, but the 'loaders' were unable to feed fast enough the vans that came to take the postcards away." The wholesale dealers had already been cleared out by the retailers who then bombarded them with repeat orders. For their own repeat orders the wholesalers sent not only vans, "but carts of all kinds, motor cars of all kinds, trucks of all kinds, hand barrows, box cycles, cyclists with sacks and even boys who went away bent double under emergency parcels almost as big as themselves." The routine of ordinary business was abandoned at many branches, so overwhelming has been the demand for 'War Postcards'. There were other searcher too, "they were the buyers who looked for the face of their own man." said the Mail.
Buy The Guide and see if you can find your WW1 ancestor among the cards illustrated there and if you do, then the next step would be to seek out a copy of the original postcard - which should be reasonably easy to do.
Even if you do not find an ancestor residing in the Daily Mail collection some of the images could be splendid items to add to your WW1 archive. For example, you could use some of them to show the locations that may have been familiar to your soldier and others to illustrate the conditions that prevailed on the Western Front at the time of the Battle of the Somme in 1916.