This is the story of the 30,490 men that left Dundee to fight in the First World War and of the people left at home.
Letters to and from home
A precious letter home, or to a loved one at the Front, was usually the only form of communication during the Great War.
In 1914 the Post Office employed 250,000 people and was the world’s biggest employer. During the war the General Post Office London Depot handled two billion letters and 114 million parcels bound for the troops.
Incoming wartime mail could take the form of scribbled pencil notes from soldiers written in the trenches to patriotic silk postcards, often proudly showing regimental crests.
There were also letters from soldiers held in Prisoner of War camps requesting Red Cross parcels. Every soldier was encouraged to write a will, to be lodged with an officer in case he died. Those poignant ‘last wishes’ were often found on the bodies of men who fell on the battlefield and were later returned to their family.
The war also coincided with the Golden Age of the picture postcard. At a halfpenny to send, postcards were half the price of a letter. This allowed those serving overseas and on the Home Front to report and reflect in simple messages how the Great War impacted upon their lives.
The dreaded telegram
Not all news was good news as many wives and mothers received letters and telegrams telling them that their loved ones were ‘missing’ or ‘killed in action’. Click on the image (right) to read the sad telegram informing Leading Seaman George Paton’s next of kin of his presumed death after the HMS Mary Rose was sunk on 17th October 1917.
Picture Credits: Letter from Braid's parents... Hand embroidered Sweetheart postcard... and Telegram breaking bad news... courtesy of University of Dundee, Archive Services.