french postcards 14

Postcard 15

Obviously everyone is willing to take advantage of it [speaking of military leaves] but you can only do it successively. The total of military leaves must not be more than 4% of the men and of a duration of 4 days from the regulatory train station nearest to your home. The journey is free. I am hoping to go at the end of the month if I don’t refuse it. It will depend on where the regulatory train station is-which I don’t know yet- and if you need half a day to arrive to [..?Caufé] and as much for the return, it is quite probable that, to avoid the fatigue of travelling for too long on trains, I will stay.

Note: This is the second part of this piece of correspondence (hence the 2 at the top on the left). It seems that soldiers sometimes used 2 cards to write as one was not enough space.

This postcard contains interesting details about the allocation of military leaves and the conditions attached. It was probably written after the spring of 1915 as before that date military leaves were not allowed as the country was in a state of war. However from 1915, as the war lengthened, the authorities had to put in place a system to allow soldiers some time back home. The system was not entirely fair as some men were allowed up to six days whilst others only benefited from 4 days. This largely depended on local military authorities and where you were posted. All leaves were cancelled during intense periods of fighting. Military leaves were difficult to manage and were one of the causes of the mutinies of 1917: some soldiers, very well aware of what others were offered in that matter, grew very resentful in the face of inequalities.

The four days mentioned here do not include the time spent travelling. Soldiers were allowed four days from the time they arrived at the regulatory train station closest to their home. They could well have been away from their unit for a whole 6 days (or more) as France is a very large country and it could have easily taken a whole 24 hours (and sometimes even more) to get back home on a slow train.

See E Cronier, Permissions et permissionaires, in Encyclopédie de la Grande Guerre 1914-1918 (ed S Audoin-Rouzeau and J-J Becker, 2004)

Postcard 19


Valmy 10 January 1915

You tell me that you have some bad weather in Messe! Well you better come here and spend a day on the front and you will certainly see something else; it is such that I am beginning to have frost bite on my feet but, as I don't have to walk, I hope that they will soon go.
From the point of view of operations, we continue to progress and, if we continue like that, we will arrive in Berlin in about fifty years.
Receive from the one who loves you his best kisses [name]

Note: A postcard from a soldier posted in Valmy, between Reims and Verdun. Possible signs of slight irritation of the whingeing of civilians and a lovely finishing touch of irony when announcing the expected date of arrival in Berlin! His correspondent would have been amused one supposes...

Postcard 29

Legend: Baby's dream

Text: Having nothing new to tell you I kiss you tenderly and send a big hello. Your devoted daughter Yvette

In pencil - reply from her father: …and me my biggest slaps.


Note: postcard of Yvette to her father. He sent it back with a short humorous comment. Another example of recycling. Interesting postcard - the romantic theme (baby’s dream) somehow clashes with the image of fighting soldiers in the background. The marriage of innocence and death gives great poignancy to this postcard.

Postcard 30

Pont-Levoy 3 March

Dear little papa,

Today Friday it is exactly 12.30, We have just finished eating at the Piaule. We’ve had some good white flageolet beans (beware of the music).

As I am writing this card maman is downstairs preparing my little goûter. I am sending this card although there is nothing to tell you; the weather is still bad- this is becoming annoying for the work in the fields. I am going to end by asking you to receive from your daughter a big special greeting and a thousand good big kisses. Everyone joins me.

Your big poison girl who loves you little.


Note: Most of the postcards from this group are from either Louis Guilbert (soldier), Louise (his wife) or Yvette (their daughter) who, as you can see here, has a particularly entertaining sense of humour. They live in Pont-Levoy (Loir et Cher also spelt Pontlevoy) and Louis is Maréchal des Logis (sub-officer rank usually in the cavalry- equivalent to sergeant) posted in Provins (Seine et Marne). See group 15 card 2 for his full address. The address does indicate that he is in the Cavalerie légère (light cavalry).

Postcard 31

Legend: When I can speak to you, alone, without constraint, my all being quivers and desires an embrace


Receive from your little André who loves you always my most affectionate kisses and my sweet embraces. André

Note: This is written after the end of the war. We know from another card (group 15 card 1) that in 1916 Yvette started work in a workshop. She must then have been 13 or over as school was made compulsory in France until the age of 13 from the year 1882 (law of 28 March 1882). In 1922 she is probably 19 or over and she has a boyfriend called André who writes her very insipid but sweet messages on postcards. He wrote her the same message (more or less) on the same card (coloured differently) five days earlier- see card 32 in group 14.

Postcard 32

Legend: When I can speak to you, alone, without constraint, my all being quivers and desires an embrace


Receive dear little Yvette my sweetest and most tender kisses.

Your little André

Note: same card as card 31, same romantic legend, different colouring for the dress (green instead of purple), same persistent message from André to Yvette.