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Picture postcards of the First World War
- Soldiers humour on Great War postcards

Of all categories into which war postcards can be catalogued, humour is the largest. But what is funny about war, which is violent, ruthless and bloody? It is precisely because war is all of this and more, that soldiers need some sort of compensating factor. Many of these soldiers feared that if they did not laugh at their hardship they would go mad. It was always an ironical laughter, not light-hearted amusement.

Generally, there are two themes into which most cards fit. One displays humour directed at oneself en one’s own situation, and the other is humour directed at the enemy. No one nation has a monopoly on any particular type of honour, yet overall British humour is good natured and simple, while French and German displays an underlying vindictiveness.

For the soldiers of the Great War, amusing episodes took place not only in training and in action, but also on leave, in romantic situations, in delousing baths and when dealing with civilians. Postcard designers took advantage of all these factors, often in full-blown comic drawings, sometimes in more subtle ways.

Soldiers liked such cards, perhaps because they said something which they could not themselves express in words. At times, they regarded the anecdote on the front of a card as rather more important than the accompanying drawing. The simplicity of the humour, with its almost complete lack of sophistication is often striking. But then the postcards reflect their era.



All picture postcards are taken from my own private collection WWI picture postcards. 
Any use of copyrighted images is accidental, and any such material will be promptly
removed from this site upon notification from the copyright holder.

© Menno Wielinga - 2009

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