Sweet messages home from war

Most of us will be tucking into festive feasts of turkey and all the trimmings this Christmas.

But for the brave soldiers fighting on the front lines of the First World War, a humble biscuit might have been the best they could hope for as a seasonal snack.

And some local servicemen even used their meagre rations as a means of keeping in touch with the families they had left behind at home, writing postcards and painting pictures on them before sending them all the way back to Leeds.

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Now their artistic efforts are on display at Leeds City Museum as part of In Their Footsteps, a moving exhibition examining the impact the war had on those who went off to fight and those who stayed behind.

One of the biscuits on display is amazingly still in its original wrapper and was sent with a Christmas message to Mrs Maxwell, of Parkside, Meanwood in 1914. The message on it reads: “Christmas dinner in the Army. ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ and please put a bit of butter on. From Max.” The sender was believed Private William Maxwell (service number 4492) who served with the 9th Queen’s Royal Lancers and was the son of G.E. and Margaret Maxwell.

Sadly, Private Maxwell only saw one Christmas in the trenches and was killed in May 1915 and buried in Hazebrouck Communal Cemetery in France.

Ruth Martin of Leeds City Museum said: “Many creative servicemen would use whatever materials they had to hand to stay in touch with their loved ones, which is why these biscuit became a colourful Christmas card or a postcard.

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“Reading them today, we can get some insight into how difficult and upsetting life in the trenches must have been at this time of year for those missing their families, all the while coping with the horror of war.”

In Their Footsteps is at Leeds City Museum until January 8.

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