french postcards 15

Postcard 1

Pont-Levoy 8 November 1916

My little papa,

It is exactly 1hr 20 before going to the workshop I come to say a big hello, to give you a big kissy, to tell you that I have settled well. Nothing’s happened to me yet, no damages, but you know I am not despairing.- Ah! Actually I have eaten chestnuts on Sunday evening at gran’s but I had my little clean gougoule - my bib was not there anymore.

I leave you as it is nearly time; maman will write to you in a few hours.

Bye bye my little naughty boy who goes to bed all dressed.

Your daughter, Yvette

Note: The word “gougoule” is not translated as it is not clear what this word refers to. It might be a specific word used by the family to designate a piece of cloth used to cover one’s clothes whilst eating messy food. This is probably a joke: Yvette, a teenager, refers to the fact that her granny still treats her like a baby.

Yvette finishes her card with another joke: Bye bye my little naughty boy who goes to bed all dressed. This probably refers to the fact that soldiers on the front slept fully dressed ready for fighting. The home routine of getting into pyjamas was no longer part of daily life.

Postcard 9

30 November 1915

My dear Louis,

I intended to write to you at more length but I have met Joseph Boiron who is on leave for 6 days. He is at Badonvillers and sometimes sees Léon. He asks me to pass on his greetings. We chatted for a while together. So here I am now to give you a big hello and a kiss. As I came back home I found the letter for Yvette. Be sure that if her ring does not please her she will send it back. If the distance were no more than that from Paris to Provins, for sure, I would accompany her to bring it back to you.

Bye and receive from your Louise her best kisses. Till later, I will come to find you again. The weather is good. I am going to go back home to put my washing on the line. L Guilbert

In blue at the bottom: A smack from me- the poison girl

Very top in the middle: greetings to Mr Boul, Mr Brûlé, Séguin et Guérin.


Postcard 10

Legend: France, it is through the effect of…


Pont-Levoy 9 October 1915

My dear little papa,

Having no news to share I send you this simple card to tell you that we are all in brilliant health. Today it was the funerals of Angèle Colliot’s husband. I do pages of handwriting every day. I am going to leave you and receive from your daughter her sweetest kisses; everyone joins me. Your big school girl.

Note: Yvette took a lot of care writing this postcard. She traced straight lines as a guide with a pencil and used her best handwriting. She mentions doing pages of handwriting practice in the postcard and uses the correspondence to show her father her best efforts. Developing beautiful and even handwriting was part of the curriculum as set by the Jules Ferry laws of 1882. The new laws made education free for all and mandatory up to the age of thirteen years old. The laws set the long lasting principle of laïcité (non clerical) of the French state education system. The teachers in the state sector were to be lay teachers although private fee paying catholic schools continued to exist alongside the non-clerical state system. In the nineteenth century letter writing was mostly confined to the middle and upper classes. The new free schooling system put in place from 1882 means that by 1914 most young adults in France could more or less read and write. This is an important factor in explaining the explosion of written exchanges from all social classes during the first war. In 1914 most adults aged 18 to 35 had gone through the new education system (with more or less success) and were able to use their new skills to stay in touch with friends and families during the war by sending letters and postcards. Most of the correspondence currently edited from that period originates from people who are generally within the 18 to 35 age range. This is the case for most of the postcards on this website. This is also pointed out by Clémentine Vidal-Naquet in the introduction to her Correspondances conjugales 1914-1918. The correspondents are often young families with young children who found the separation most difficult to bear or young newly formed couples.

Postcard 13

Line 4: I send you this simple postcard which I bought from a passer-by (une passante) on the day we were at the three chimneys- you see you find everything in the countryside.

Note: This is a card written from a certain Louise to a Louis. Interesting detail about the selling of postcards. It seems that postcards were often sold by stand-by sellers who were very mobile and went around villages and even to the trenches to sell their merchandise. This was certainly good business at the time. It is estimated that more than 800 000 000 postcards were printed in 1914 as opposed to 100 000 000 in 1910 and that 4 million items of correspondence were sent every day during the war.


Postcard 19

Legend: In these times of great troubles one does not know what to give so I am giving papa what I have been able to find

Pont-Levoy 19 April 1915

My papa

I am coming to say a big hello and to give you news of the family- they are always very good.

Receive from your daughter her biggest and biggest kisses

Y Guilbert

Everyone joins me

Top right: I haven’t had news from you today. I am sending back your card and tomorrow I will write to you. I am very well and kiss warmly for me mummy, grand-dad and gran and you my poison girl big kisses from your papa. Economizing paper. Louis.

Note: As you can see here postcards were sometimes recycled and used again to send a message back home. It may be that paper and postcards were sometimes difficult to get hold of; or simply as suggested here a way of saving money. In April 1915 Louis Gilbert is posted in Nogent-sur-Seine (111 km East of Paris).