Gordon Stokes' Postcards
This album is an interesting combination of mass-market postcards, ephemera and photographs, which were compiled at home from items sent by a loved one during the war.
A modern description taped to the front page states that the postcards in this album were sent home by Gordon Stokes, serving in the 142nd Infantry Brigade of the British Army, to his finance, Dora Walker.
The majority of the album is composed of blank postcards of the damage and destruction of towns, cities and the countryside of France. These postcards, often available in packs, were mass-produced and sold to soldiers during the war. Many of these particular cards are labelled, "La Guerre - 1914-15-16," which tentatively dates them to post-1916. The fact that most of them are blank is indicative that Stokes purchased the postcards, not to use them for their purpose, but for the pictorial evidence they provided and as a means to share the landscapes and effects of war that he saw every day with his fiancé and family back home.
The album also includes some soldiers portraits and other ephemera. Perhaps most interesting is a page with three pieces of ephemera, including a printed postcard from the Second Russian Army to the Second British Army with "cordial greetings and wishes of complete victory upon our common enemy," dated 1916. Also present on the page is a piece of paper envelope stamped in French with a handwritten description, presumably written by Stokes, "French bullets are served out in paper packets. This is part of a wrapper." The last item on the page is a tag marking a "deceased man's kit" which is labelled for Pte. Page of the "24th R/Lon." It is uncertain how Stokes would have come to possess such an item, but it represents a sad reality for every soldier, who would have seen friends and fellow soldiers die and have their belongings collected, labelled and sent back home.
While the majority of material in the album appears to date from 1916, including the landscape postcards and the Russian postcard, nine loose photographs are stored in the back of the album and date to after the war. These snaps show the deserted and destroyed battlefields of Flanders and the city of Ypres in the immediate post-war period, when German Prisoners of War, among others, were tasked with the clean-up, including collecting unexploded ammunition. Handwritten notations on the back provide additional information, "POW pulling a 12cm 1887 gun out of Inverness Copse. Gun captured by 95th Div of GHELUVELT Sept 1918." It is unknown whether Stokes participated in the battlefield clean-up as a munitions or a grave worker, for example, or if he obtained these photographs elsewhere. However, both these photographs and the earlier postcards demonstrate a fascination with the changing landscape and utter destruction of the war.
The Fisher Library acquired this album through purchase in 2010.