Guide to the Sympathy Cards Souvenirs Collection
Collection Number: Souvenirs 17
Title: Sympathy Cards Souvenirs Collection
Scope and content note: This collection contains sympathy cards sent during the First World War by individuals and official organisations.
Provenance: Items in this collection have been collected from a variety of different sources and donors.
Extent: 1 folder
Location: Published and Digitised Collections, Research Centre, Australian War Memorial.
Related collections: Memorial Services, Memorial and Funeral Services for Individuals
Processing history: Collection arranged and re-numbered in 2005.
Publication rights: Contact the Senior Curator, Published & Digitised Collections.
Copyright: Contact the Senior Curator, Published & Digitised Collections.
Preferred citation: Sympathy Cards Souvenirs Collection, Australian War Memorial, Souvenirs 17.
Funeral and mourning rituals in Australia were never as extravagant as in Britain, but the British and Irish rituals were transmitted in similar forms to colonial Australia. Writing condolence letters was an important mourning ritual, although Christian modes of consolation were in marked decline by 1918 and becoming increasingly secularised. There were no clear alternative resources for grieving and many still drew on traditional nineteenth century mourning customs to varying degrees, adopting them to a new secularist temper in society in response to the First World War. During the war, relatives were unable to say goodbye, view the body or attend the funeral of loved ones who died on active service but they were still able to find consoling ways to mourn their loss. They drew on those traditional customs which did not demand Christian faith, notably those that honoured and recalled their memory.
Condolence letters played a significant role in mourning rituals in colonial Australia by rallying the support and sympathy of extended family, friends and community around a family that reinforced the role of the funeral. Since colonial families were often isolated by distance from their original families and communities in Europe, this activity assumed greater importance. This is evident through the use of sympathy cards during the First World War. Black-edged stationery was used less and for shorter periods in colonial Australia than in Britain. In Britain, black-edged stationery was printed with varying border widths to allow for gradual dilution during the mourning period. Two years' mourning was held to be appropriate for a widow, one year for a widower and one year for a parent. The broadest border was usually 12.5mm, and black-edged stationery was very popular during the First World War. Bereaved families usually found condolence letters comforting, despite the additional burden of having to compose appropriate replies.
- Joy Damousi , The Labour of Loss: Mourning, Memory and Wartime Bereavement in Australia (Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, 1999)
- Pat Jalland , Australian Ways of Death: A Social and Cultural History 1840-1918 (Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 2002)
- Maurice Rickards , The Encyclopedia of Ephemera: A Guide to the Fragmentary Documents of Everyday Life for the Collector, Curator and Historian (Routledge, New York, 2000)
|Series number||Title of Series and Date|
|1||General Sympathy Cards|
|2||Official Sympathy Cards and Letters|
|3||Appreciation of Sympathy cards|
SERIES 1: General Sympathy Cards(27 items)
Description: The series contains general examples of sympathy cards that were sent by friends and relatives to families of service personnel who died whilst on active service during the First World War. They feature military themes as well as traditional Christian images and sentiments. Use has been made of black borders and bible verses as well as verses by well-known poets. Most have been designed in booklet form and are tied together with ribbon or wool.
|1/1/1||With Sincere Sympathy
Map of Australia with crossed rifles and hat. Black border on cream background with embossed frame. Interior features a bible verse from St John 15:13 and a condolence message. Tied with black ribbon.
|1/1/2||With Sincere Sympathy
Same as above but interior verse is "He Hath Fought the Good Fight."
|1/1/3||With heart-felt sympathy
Silver wreath around words with silver flowers featured across solid blocks of black. Thick black border incorporating silver outline with silver writing. Inside has a verse from Revelations XXII, 3.4.5
|1/1/4||With all true sympathy
Silver writing with grey flowers and silver embellishments. Black border with silver edging. Inside features a verse from Albinus and a message of condolence. Tied together with black wool.
Rising Sun badge of the Australian Commonwealth Military Forces. Inside features a message of sympathy. Tied together with a black and white bow.
|1/1/6||With Sincere Sympathy
Black and white image of an artillery gun with a grey cityscape in the background. Thin silver box border on white background. Inside features a ribbon and wreath illustrated verse from John 15:3 above a verse from Leuname. Also features a message of sympathy. Tied together with purple wool.
|1/1/7||With Sincere Sympathy: Greater Love Hath No Man Than This
Embossed type of scroll. Image of Australian and Union Jack flags tied together with red ribbon. Thin black box border. Inside features a verse by Leuname and message of sympathy.Tied together with black wool.
|1/1/8||With Deepest Sympathy: Thy Will Be Done
Image of Australian and Union Jack flags tied together with red ribbon. Thin black box border. Inside features a verse titled For King and Country and a message of condolence.
Two purple and white bows and evidence of flowers once attached underneath silver embellishments. White card with disintegrating white and purple ribbon border.Inside features message of sympathy and verse.
Embossed torn page with grey shading featuring a quote and a message of condolence.Thick black border. Inside has a message of sympathy.Tied with twisted black and white cotton.
|1/1/11||With Deepest Sympathy
Australian Blue Ensign at half mast. Black border. The interior has a verse and image of soldiers fighting from the trenches with a weeping angel above.
|1/1/12||With Deepest Sympathy
Crossed Red Ensign and Australian Red Ensign, with cross and wreath and the phrase "On Active Service" on the cover. The interior contains a poem and message of condolence.
Silver and black cup holding embossed white and green flowers. Thick black border. Interior features message of sympathy.
|1/1/14||With Loving Sympathy
Silver cross with white flowers laying on top. Black border. Interior features verse and message of condolence. Tied together with black ribbon.
|1/1/15||In Deepest Sympathy
Union Jack behind Australian Red Ensign flag. Thick black border. Interior features verse and message of condolence. Tied with khaki wool.
|1/1/16||On the Roll of Honour
Features white wreath around the message In Loving Sympathy and the Union Jack and Australian Ensign flags at the top with a boxed verse at the bottom. Black border. Inside features verses from Tennyson and Matthew, 4.
|1/1/17||In Honour's Cause: With Sincere Condolence
Grey and white image of daisies surrounding a circle incorporating crossed Union Jack and Australian flags. Silver border. Inside features a verse from Robert Louis Stevenson and a message of condolence. Tied together with black wool.
|1/1/18||Australia's Fallen Heroes: With Sincerest Sympathy
Black and white image of Australian flag at top. Thin black box border. Inside features a verse and message of condolence. Tied together with black wool.
|1/1/19||For King and Country
Union Jack flag at half-mast. A ribbon with the words For King and Country is wrapped around the flagpole. Grey embossed border. Interior features a verse and message of sympathy.
|1/1/20||Greater Love Hath No Man than this that a Man Lay Down his Life for his Friends.
A British and Australian soldier standing with arms reversed and heads bowed alongside their country's flag. Black border. Includes verse and message of condolence. 2 copies
|1/1/21||A Tribute of Love and Respect
White flowers with grey or black leaves and silver embellishments. Grey background with black border. Inside features verse from Longfellow and message of condolence. Tied with a black and white ribbon.
Word 'Remembrance' in silver lettering in an embossed oval underneath an embossed basket of flowers. Thin black border. Inside features a bible verse 18.11.12 and message of sympathy.Tied with white wool.
|1/1/23||A Token of Remembrance
Black and white image of crown inside an embossed silver wreath hanging from a window. Interior features a verse from Charlotte Murray and a message of sympathy. Tied together with black and white ribbon.
|1/1/24||Thy Will Be Done
Silver picture of angels, clouds and stars in front of a church window. Black border on front and inside card. Inside features verse from Longfellow and message of sympathy.
|1/1/25||He Hath Fought the Good Fight
Black and white image of crossed Union Jack and Australian Ensign flags. Interior includes a verse and message of sympathy.
|1/1/26||Be Thou Faithful Unto Death and I Will Give Thee a Crown of Life.
Centre image of crossed Union Jack and Australian flags tied together with red ribbons. Thin black border. Interior has two quotes and a message of sympathy.
Description: This series contains official sympathy cards and letters that were sent to families who had lost loved ones by state governments and other organisations. They feature condolence messages to these families as well as information about memorials for service personnel and details of available assistance for family members.
|2/1/1||With the Compliments of the Queensland Government 1916-17
Cream background with blue writing and a military badge under the word Anzac. Inside features a handwritten verse of condolence and a picture of the tablet erected in vestibule of Executive Building, Brisbane.
|2/1/2||South Australian Soldier's Fund
Features a message of sympathy and offer of monetary assistance.
|2/1/3||Australia Mourns Her Dead
Thin black border on cream background. Inside features message In Loving Memory of the Australians who fell in the World's Great War of 1914-18 and three verses written by A C Gardiner.
Description: This series contains examples of cards sent to friends and relatives acknowledging the sympathy received by families who lost loved ones on active service during the First World War.
|3/1/1||[Return thanks for kind sympathy]
Return thanks for sympathy pre-printed card from Mr and Mrs Howard and family. Cream card with thick black border.
|3/1/2||[We sincerely appreciate your comforting sympathy in our very sad loss]
Pre-printed card with a thin black border from Mr and Mrs Menerey and Family.
|3/1/3||For King and Country
Blank card with the pre-printed message "Sincerely thank you for your kind sympathy in their sad bereavement." Thin black border with small image of crossed Union Jack and Australian Red Ensign flags. Space left for family signature.
White card featuring a silver cross with leaves wrapped around. Return sympathy card from Nancy, Peter and Lesley Wood.