Visit this blog for regular posts about records at the Archives of Manitoba that date from the time of the First World War. Visit the Archives of Manitoba to see the records in person.

December 2017 Posts:

11 December 2017

First World War postcards

In November 1917 Herb Francis (previously featured in our 24 July 2017 blog), was wounded and sent to England for medical attention, “Blighty” as it was known to the soldiers. He continued to write to his family, updating them about his location, condition and whether he would be returning to Canada soon.

In December 1917, Herb wrote several letters and postcards to members of his family. The letters speak of feeling homesick when thinking of past Christmases at home and wishing he could be there with them. The postcards, drawn by T. Gilson, one of a number of artists designing comical and satirical First World War postcards, are less serious and more humorous.

On the first postcard which Herb sends to his sister in Headingley, Manitoba, two wounded soldiers are enjoying Blighty – “Good old Blighty”.

Herb wrote on the reverse:

“Dear Etta,
That’s me with the cigar. Don’t I look comfortable in Blighty?
Yours, Herb.”

Postcard with an illustration of three young boys resting under a tree and smoking cigars. One has a leg in a cast. A crutch lays next to him on the ground. Another boy has an arm in a sling. The third boy is obscured by the other boys, but seemes to be reading a paper. The postcard is captioned “Blighty – good old Blighty!” Back of Postcard from Herb to his sister. It reads: “Liverpool, Eng. Thursday, Dec 20/17. Dear Etta, That's me with the cigar. Don't I look comfortable in Blighty? Yours, Herb. Miss Etta Francis, Headingly P.O., Manitoba, Canada”
(2 images)
Postcard with an illustration of a boy in a hospital bed. A cigarette hangs from his lips as he reads a sporting newspaper. Four pictures on the wall show two men boxing, a horse, a ballerina, and a woman in a hat. Pants and a tie are drapped over the railing at the foot of the bed. The postcard is captioned “How it feels to be exempt!” Back of Postcard from Herb to his brother Charles. It reads: “Sunday. Dear Chas, Read your card. How did you like G.? Did you find your way alright? Things here just the same as ever. No mail from home yet. A Merry xmas to you also best regards. Yours, Herb. 186114, Sgt. C. R. Francis. 2 Kirkstall Rd. Strawbarry Hill. London, S. W. Eng.”
(2 images)
Archives of Manitoba, Sarah Margaret Francis fonds, Sarah Margaret Francis – letters from sons (November – December 1917), P303/2.

On the second postcard, a boy is pictured enjoying exemption from military service, reading the newspaper in bed while smoking a cigarette. Herb sent this postcard to his brother, Charles, who was serving in France but was on leave in London over Christmas.

He reports that:

“Things here just the same as ever. No mail from home yet.
A Merry Xmas to you also best regards,
Yours Herb.”

Search Tip: Search “Sarah Margaret Francis” or “Charles Ross Francis” in Keystone for more information on the Francis family and their First World War records.

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4 December 2017

A Soldier's Farewell

Alexander Logan Waugh was the second son of Richard Deans Waugh, Winnipeg’s mayor in 1912, 1915 and 1916. Like his elder brother Douglas, Alexander Waugh served in the Lord Strathcona’s Horse during the First World War. Waugh served in France from March 1916. In 1917, he was a lieutenant in the machine gun squadron of the First Canadian Cavalry Brigade.

Waugh wrote regular, descriptive letters home to his family sharing his experiences, his thoughts, and his feelings. Before going into battle, Waugh had a habit of writing farewell letters home in case he was killed; when he returned from battle he would tear them up. However, on 17 November 1917 Waugh wrote a farewell letter to his father which he decided to send:

Letter with 2 pages from Alexander Logan Waugh
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Archives of Manitoba, Waugh family fonds, Letters from Alexander Logan Waugh to his family, July – November 1917, P7965/11.

“Before going into every action I’ve written my farewells home ––– just in case ––– and torn the letters up after coming back. But this time I’m writing this to be posted just before we go into the biggest thing in my life.  I don’t expect to come back and I can look ahead to my gallant men keeping my guns in action until they too are gone. There will be no retreat. I know my men better than their own mothers and no man has ever had greater confidence in them than I have. If any do come back to you remember that they are my friends.

If I should die, remember that I gave gladly all that I had to keep a smile on your lips and sorrow from your hearts. I’m only one of the millions who are to know the bitterness, the aching heart and when the finish comes, the longing for some last kiss or the touch of a hand and a voice to say, ‘Well done my son.’

And so – good-by.

With my heart full of love and my face turned to the long, long years before I meet you, somewhere on the Other Side, Allie.”

In fact, this was not Waugh’s final letter. Although he was briefly reported missing, Waugh survived being stranded in No Man’s Land for seven hours an ordeal he described in his final letter home on 28th November.

Three days later Waugh was killed in action near Gouzeaucourt on 1 December 1917.

Search Tip: Search “Waugh family” in Keystone for more information on the Waugh family and their First World War records.

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