French postcards 1

Postcard 1:

Legend: I am writing from Sector 669 the most peaceful on the front. No worries here, cooking’s good, the chef is a former orchestra conductor who makes all the right noises. Ah here we go again….


Don’t worry…it’s just a stew-pot that fell into my mess-tin, just a minute, I am gathering my stuff and I will continue my little note to tell you what’s happened…


…I could not tell you very much during my last leave, there’s nothing much happening here (apart from the kit inspections that drive us mad) we’re just smoking our pipes…


Damn! I was just sitting on a boche mine when it blew!! Never mind! Just give me a minute to number my bits and pieces and I am all yours…


Here I am this time in the cagna (military shelter) away from the dust. So I was telling you…Son of a bitch! A torpedo now. Never mind! I just need to sharpen my pen again and I will finish..


..with a big kiss. Don’t forget the tobacco in the next parcel because I haven’t got anything left to put in my pipe…Ah! Bloody hell, it just got shattered by a machine gun salvo. Bad luck…never mind, you will send me another one. Apart from that I’m fine. See you soon.


12 July 1914

My dear Lea,

I have received your two letters of the 8th of the current month- happy to have some news from you. We have a little two year old girl at home. The father has been a prisoner for a year. She calls us papa. She is rather sweet; that’s a bit of a distraction. My health is good. I have well earned my due today therefore I am tired; I still had visitors. I leave you and kiss you with all my heart. Your husband who loves you.

Dissais Camille


Translation of “j’ai encore bien gagné mes cinq sous aujourd’hui”: this means literally “I have again well earned my 5 sous today”. The “sous” is an ancient French money. Gagner cinq sous is a French colloquial expression meaning “earn a little money”.

Is Camille already in the army and away from home when writing this card? Or is he at home and his wife is away (he writes “we have a little 2 year old at home- à la maison). The general mobilisation does not start until 2 August 1914 in France.

Postcard 3:

Addressed to : Mr Dissais Camille

Ordinancy of Mr Hantz

Military Superintendant

Sétif, Algérie

My dear Camille,


I hear from Cassone that you have not yet received the parcel; if you have not received it, you can chase it as you have the receipt. Hope to hear from you soon. I am waiting for your answer with impatience as my heart is heavy […]letters I beg you do not listen to anyone. You must trust me like a brother. You well know that, in order to forget you, I would have to shed tears- however your letter did make me cry.

[..]soon. I wish you good health and the class […]Your friend - I  kiss you many times. Hippolyte […]

Postcard 4:

Legend: Vision of love

Nouzières 16 May 1916

I have just received your kind letter of the 12th- always happy. I am very worried about my parcel. I sent it in recorded delivery. I think that’s worth it -12. If it’s lost I sure won’t be happy. I have your parcel- the old Paul is very satisfied. Quite rightly; he’s going to thank you shortly. The ring of Mr Brune doesn’t look bad. You don’t tell me whether you’ve written to him. I am in a hurry, forgive me. Receive my dear Camille my best wishes. Your wife all yours. Until tomorrow.

Léa Dissais

Note: It is interesting to see what is in the parcels exchanged between the spouses: from Léa so far we have medicine and food, from Camille, presents for his daughter, stuff for neighbours and friends, a ring.

The number 12 that appears on the card might refer to either the day when Léa sent the parcel or the amount she had to pay to send it in recorded delivery.


Cher Camille


Je viens de recevoir ton aimable letter du 14 toujours contente. Je suis très inquiète de mon collis. Je l’ai fait recommender car je pense que s’en vaut la peine- 12. Si c’est perdu c’est certain que sa sera loin de me faire plaisir. J’ai ton colis le père Paul est très satisfait il a moyen il va te remercier d’ici peu la bague de Mr Bruno n’est pas mal tu ne me dit pas si tu lui as écrit. Je suis presser pardonne moi. Recois cher Camille mes amitiés sincères ta femme toute à toi Léa Dissais a demain.

Postcard 5:

Legend: Le permissionnaire [the soldier on leave]

Nouzières 12 September 1916

My dear husband

I have just received your two beautiful views of the 8th. Always with great pleasure. I see that the temperature is the same as at yours. It’s not warm and in the morning there is a thick fog. I go to the field every evening and my mother goes there in the morning because of Yvette. She does not get up early. She is very happy to receive cards from her papa. Nothing new apart from the fact that I see that you’re going to spend yet another winter. It’s rather saddening. So I am going to leave you my darling by kissing you very warmly. Your wife all yours who does not forget you one minute. Bye til tomorrow.

Léa Dissais


Léa writes “elle ne se reveille pas de bonheur” instead of “elle ne se réveille pas de bonne heure”. This is an example of the type of mistakes she makes in her writings. Same sounds, different meanings.

Postcard 6:


Very sweet thought to the valiant Poilu who walks to the fight, ardent and resolute

Nouzières 27 August 1916

My dear little darling man,

I have just received your good card of the 23rd, always with great joy. I am about to go to Brétigny to get Yvette. I can’t wait to be there to know what she has been doing the whole week. I think that you haven’t got worse but that you have completely recovered. My father has smoked the two cigarettes. He found them delicious.

I am waiting for Boca with impatience. The temperature seems to want to turn to rain. I can’t think of anything new. Everyone is well and I wish that you are the same. I leave you by kissing you very warmly. Your wife all yours who loves you for ever. Bye my friend until tomorrow.

Léa Dissais

Note: Léa’s parents live in Brétigny and have obviously been looking after her daughter for the week. The cigarettes mentioned are probably a present from Camille to his father in law. They were made available to soldiers on the front and soldiers sometimes sent some home. Cigarettes and wine were the two commodities that the army endeavoured to make available to soldiers to keep them in good spirit.

Postcard 8:

Legend: Your souvenir, your love, your thought are soaking my heart over there in the trenches

Nouzières 4 June 1916

Dear Camille

I have just received your card of the 29th- always with pleasure. Yesterday went well for the two lads. I can assure you that they were happy but Marguerite and I, when we arrived, had a migraine because of the heat. Today it’s not hot. Charlotte does not want to walk, especially when at the threshing machine - she messes about with her back legs- impossible to make her walk. She really has terrible manners. There is Bossiere’s horse with the poor old one and it is sort of alright. If you were here she would receive some- she made such bellows- never seen that. Nothing else new apart from the fact that it is quite disheartening to have so much work and to always be the domestics over there, to earn yesterday 850 Fr the lowest, the Dey du Pont woman earned Reserdy who was at Dancereau’s for 920Fr.

I leave you by kissing you with all my heart. Your wife who loves you always. Good-bye my friend until tomorrow.

Léa Dissais

Note: It seems that Léa is working as a journalière (casual agricultural worker) for other land owners. She sees it as being the “domestics”- les domestiques- a very pejorative turn of phrase in French that indicates that one feels exploited. The figures mentioned may be either a wage for a specific task or a wage for several working days.