Happy Valentine's Day from ‘The Love Controller'!
As with other special occasions such as Christmas and birthdays, having to spend Valentine's Day apart from loved ones would have been sad and distressing for many serving men and women, and for those at home eagerly awaiting the safe return of their sweethearts and friends.
Fortunately, there is little that can stand in the way of love and many people overcame distance and time to send messages of love and admiration, not only for Valentine's Day, but throughout the course of wartime.
Postcards were an easy method of expressing such thoughts and feelings. Popular at any time, a variety of designs have been created since their invention in order to send that special message to that special someone.
Many Australian servicemen and women were able to take advantage of this market, particularly during the First World War, and some very interesting examples are held in the Australian War Memorial's collection.
One fun example collected by an Australian from Britain, pictured above, was playing on the situation of rationing during the First World War (RC08136). ‘The Love Controller', from the ‘Ministry of Love, Spooning Lane', issued the card to a lucky recipient, who on collecting a certain number of coupons could exchange them for anything from half an hour of squeezing (requiring 1/4 of a coupon) to ‘ALL YOURS' (requiring four full coupons).
A charming expression of close friendship is found in this beautiful Italian postcard below from the First World War, featuring a courting couple, ‘The shy young maid' and ‘the lover bold', sent by Les, an Australian soldier in Egypt, to his friend Ruby in 1916 (RC07788). The unknown couple on the front are depicted in lavish colour by the seaside.
Les thought the card would remind Ruby of ‘moonlight nights and balcony windows and small hours'.
Many postcards featured embossed designs, often with use of colour. The example on the left side below, written by a wife to her soldier husband (RC08160) includes a verse and an image of a young woman with pansies (the popular meaning of pansies at the time was 'you occupy my thoughts'). The message on the back reads: ‘To my darling, with [all my] Love it shows, I wish I had you by my side now as I miss you more every day. [Do not] lose heart... Love from your loving wife'.
The example on the right includes a verse surrounded by coloured flowers and an embossed border (RC08164). The message on the reverse, from an Australian soldier in France, reads ‘To my dear sweetheart, I remain unfailingly yours...'
Designs with glitter brought something fancy to postcards, and were not very common. The example below was sent from a loving husband to ‘My dear wife' in 1917 (RC08162).
While many cards were produced as part of a whole series with a particular theme, some also contained a theme of remembering duty despite the hardship of separation. The cards below illustrate these themes (RC08166-8168).
Other cards became quite unique and elaborate, such as this lovely example below, ‘To my dear Sweetheart', which uses fabric and glitter to create a pressed flower (RC08165). It is also unusual in that the backing is made of plastic.
Embroidered silk postcards were a popular design during the First World War. Many examples are held in the Memorial's collection. They were mostly embroidered by French women in their homes and then sent to company factories for cutting and mounting on postcards. Embroidered messages on the cards aimed at sweethearts and affectionate friends, range from ‘To My Darling', ‘To My Dear Wife From Your Loving Husband' to ‘To My Dear Sweetheart'. Many of these and other silk postcards may be viewed on the Memorial's website at this link:
It is clear from the Memorial's First World War postcard collections that servicemen and their loved ones favoured a variety of designs produced in many countries, some humorous, some elaborate, some themed, and almost always romantic.
From the ‘Ministry of Love, Spooning Lane', here's wishing everyone around the world, and especially our current serving men and women and their loved ones at home, a very happy Valentine's Day!