Leeds nostalgia: Pictures from the past as war postcards go online

Leeds mother and child taken in Harrison's Studio.
Leeds mother and child taken in Harrison's Studio.
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Earlier this year we reported on a new online project aimed at gathering information about how Leeds families were touched by the Great War.

The Army Children of the First World War project was set up as a digital archive to tell the stories of ordinary people who lived through the 1914-1918 conflict. The aim was to inspire both young and old to connect with the events of a century ago.

Those behind the site have stuck to their promise of uploading a new image every week and few months on the website is packed with images and postcards written by soldiers on the frontline and sent back to loved ones in Leeds. Recent images to be uploaded include a photograph of a mother and child taken in Harrison’s Studio in Leeds.

“The mother’s wedding ring is clearly visible, as are the two brooches that she wears: a cameo and, beneath it, a sweetheart brooch,” says Clare Gibson, one of the organisers of the project which is being led by the Imperial War Museum. “The sweetheart brooch takes the form of a rifle, upon which is superimposed the badge of the regiment in which her husband was presumably serving.

“The details of the badge are indistinct, but the shape points to a crown-surmounted rose of Yorkshire, which may indicate the badge of the Yorkshire Dragoons (Queen’s Own).”

Another recent addition is a postcard of a small child, hands held together in prayer. On the front is written, ‘God bless our soldiers and sailors. Amen’.

“Proceeds from the sale of these cards went to a soldiers and sailors’ parcel convoy fund and it seems they were produced by the Crown Photo Company in Wortley,” adds Clare. “However, it’s the back which is really poignant. A childish hand has written a message in pencil. It reads simply, ‘Our Blanche. My Love’.

“During the First World War, an enormous number of British children became ‘temporary’ army children when their civilian fathers joined the British Army as volunteers or conscripts. A significant proportion of British families today will count such children among their ancestors, but may not appreciate fully how having a soldier–father affected the lives – psychologically, as well as practically – of their descendents.

“Having a father who is a peacetime soldier colours a childhood, so having a soldier–father when one’s childhood coincides with a world war and a period of national crisis cannot fail to have an impact, from the daily sadness of missing an absent parent through the euphoric joy of reunion, however fleeting, to the trauma inflicted by a father’s injury or death.

“TACA collects, preserves and shares online information about the challenges and peculiarities of growing up as the child of a regular soldier in the British Army, from the seventeenth century to today.

“Because the wartime experiences of the children of volunteer and conscript soldiers essentially mirrored those of the children of regular soldiers from 1914 to 1918, TACA is in a unique position to provide a deeper understanding of what they went through. Drawing on the wealth of material it encourages consideration of the ways in which the war affected these young non-combatants.”

The Army Children of the First World War archive: www.archhistory.co.uk

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