The other day I was working with a small pile of photos and there were a couple featuring soldiers from the Tidswell family; namely Willie and OH Tidswell. They’d had photos taken in uniform and were using them as postcards to write home to “Dear Esther”. On January 10th 1917 OH Tidswell wrote
Dear Esther and all at home. Just a line to let you know I am still well and hope you are also. This photo Willie & I had taken a few days ago. I haven’t had any letters from you for some time now. How is Auntie & all the rest keeping, also Nellie. I heard she was to undergo an operation. I hope she is better long before now. Your Affc Cousin, 204580, OH Tidswell. 6th Hauraki Coy.
I can sense him reaching out to his cousin and wanting to feel a connection to home. I feel for him wondering why he had not heard from home and couldn’t help thinking about all the reasons their letters might not have reached him. Postcards like this are such important artefacts. Today we have images of wars on FaceBook as events unfold, and even the main news channels use cellphone footage if they need to. How can today’s young people – smartphone in hand – even begin to understand the isolation soldiers felt in 1917?
One way to help them make that connection is through tangible evidence from days gone by, such as these postcards. If we can sit with a teen and talk about how those images left a war zone and travelled home – and the dangers along the way that could mean the postcard never made it to its recipient- then a little window of understanding begins to open.
In one sense they are just old postcards, but they’re also so much more than that. These postcards give us a tangible link to people long gone, some small understanding of what they went through, and a chance to connect current and future generations with our history.