Military cards

Lord Methuen

  • Lord Methuen and his Staff

Field Marshal Paul Sanford Methuen, 3rd Baron Methuen, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, DL (1 September 1845 to 30 October 1932) was a British Army officer. He served in the Third Anglo-Ashanti War in 1873 and then in the expedition of Sir Charles Warren to Bechuanaland in the mid-1880s. He took a prominent role as General Officer Commanding the 1st Division in the Second Boer War and suffered both defeats and successes. Lord Methuen and the British Army were not prepared for modern warfare. Methuen reached South Africa in November 1899 with orders to relieve Kimberley but initially just expelled the Boers from Belmont and Graspan. His greatest defeat was at the Battle of Magersfontein, during which he failed to carry out adequate reconnaissance so that his artillery bombarded the wrong place leading to the Highland Brigade taking heavy casualties. The battle was regarded as one of the three British disasters in “Black Week” that led to the despatch of Lord Roberts to South Africa. After Magersfontein, Methuen remained in the Kimberley–Boshof area trying to capture Boer General Christiaan de Wet. However, Methuen was himself captured by the Boers at Tweebosch on 7 March 1902. He had been wounded in the battle when he broke his leg after his horse fell on him. Boer General Koos de la Rey released him because of the severity of his injuries, providing his personal cart to take Methuen to hospital in Klerksdorp. It was said that the two became lifelong friends as a result of this action. Following the end of hostilities in early June 1902, he left Cape Town with other invalids and convalescents on board the SS Assaye, arriving in Southampton the following month, still walking with crutches. He was the only general taken prisoner by the Boers during the war. Despite all this, he was praised by Kitchener and by October that year he was being honoured by King Edward VII at Buckingham Palace. After the war, he became General Officer Commanding-in-Chief in South Africa in 1908, Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Natal in 1910 and then Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Malta in 1915.
Sourcewikipedia: Paul Methuen, 3rd Baron Methuen

Russo-Japanese War of 1904 to 1905

  • The Great Victory of Japan “Banzai” FEB 7, 1904

The Battle of Chemulpo Bay was a naval battle on 9 February 1904, off the coast of present-day Incheon, Korea. The opening stage of the war began with a pre-emptive strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the Russian Pacific Fleet spread among Port Arthur, Vladivostok, and Chemulpo Bay. Command of the Japanese Chemulpo operation was given to Rear Admiral Uryū Sotokichi. Chemulpo had strategic significance, as it was the main port for the Korean capital of Seoul, and the main invasion route used previously by Japanese forces in the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894. The Japanese protected cruiser Chiyoda had been based at Chemulpo for the past 10 months.

In the early morning of 8 February, the aging  Russian gunboat Korietz spotted Chiyoda outside the Chemulpo roadstead, and mistaking it for a fellow Russian ship, loaded its guns for a salute. On closing in, the crew of Korietz realized their mistake and in the ensuing confusion the guns were discharged.  Chiyoda responded by launching a torpedo. Both sides missed, but this was the first actual exchange of fire in the Russo-Japanese War, and it is unclear which side actually opened fire first.

Korietz retreated back to Chemulpo harbour where several warships from neutral countries were present in the anchorage. Uryū reasoned that if the Russians remained anchored in the midst of the neutral ships, it was against international law to attack the Russians while they were anchored in a neutral port, whereas if the Russians came out to do battle, he had ample force to deal with them. Uryū sent a message requesting that the captains of neutral vessels remove, promising that no attack should be delivered before 16:00.

At noon, Captain Denis Bagly of HMS Talbot came to Naniwa with a letter signed by all of the neutral captains except for the captain of USS Vicksburg, declining the request to change anchorage, on the grounds that Chemulpo was a neutral port. Outgunned and outnumbered, and refusing advice from the neutral captains to surrender, at 11:00 on 9 February, Captain Vsevolod Rudnev of Varyag attempted to make a break for the open sea. Unable to break past the Japanese squadron by mid-afternoon, Korietz and the badly battered Varyag returned to Chemulpo harbour at 13:15, where both took refuge near the neutral warships. At 16:00, Korietz was scuttled by her crew by blowing up two powder-rooms. Fragments of the blown-up ship landed dangerously close to neutral vessels. Fearing a greater explosion with potential casualties, the captains of the neutral warships present urged Rudnev not to blow up Varyag in a similar manner. At 18:10, scuttled by her crew, Varyag rolled over on her port side and sank. Crewmen from Varyag were dispatched to the Russian transport Sungari, which had remained behind in the harbor during the battle, and set her on fire to prevent her from falling into Japanese hands.

The Battle of Chemulpo was a military victory for the Japanese. Russian casualties on the Varyag were heavy. Of her crew with a nominal strength of 580, 33 were killed and 97 wounded. Most serious cases among the Russian wounded were treated at the Red Cross hospital at Chemulpo. The Russian crews—except for the badly wounded—returned to Russia on neutral warships and were treated as heroes. Although severely damaged, Varyag—not blown up—was later raised by the Japanese and incorporated into the Imperial Japanese Navy as the training ship Soya.

The fourth image shows the hopelessly obsolete Matsushima and her sister ships. They were assigned to the 5th squadron of the reserve Japanese 3rd Fleet, together with the equally outdated ironclad battleship Chin’en under the command of Admiral Shichiro Kataoka. She was based out of the Takeshiki Guard District on Tsushima island for patrols of the Korea Strait in early February 1904.

Source: wikipedia

The Scottish Churches Huts

The Scottish Churches Huts provided temporary places of worship, prayer and relaxation for troops serving in France and Flanders. There were twenty five such centres and approxiamtely 350 personnel. These seem largely to have been women – members of the Church of Scotland Guild. In August 1916, the Rev. George Christie reported on the establishment of church huts for soldiers in France:

“THE first two Huts are open and fully justifying their existence. On Sunday mornings Parade Services are held in both Huts, and it is an inspiring sight to see the great halls – 120 feet by 30 – crammed from end to end, many standing or sitting on our counters… It is amazing also to find how the lads revel in letter-writing…This comes from the fact that we are dealing chiefly with reinforcements passing through from home and lying here for a few days only. But well as our Huts are doing we want many things. The writer has seen only one Scotsman in three weeks! We need daily papers, weeklies, all kinds of illustrated papers and magazines, popular books, games, bagatelle boards, local papers from any and every town and country.

The report concludes with a financial appeal and flag days were held at home to raise funds for the effort. Medals were awarded to those who staffed the huts a number of whom died from influenza and other causes.

M Scottish Depot

M Depot was an Infantry Base Depot, a holding camp. Situated within easy distance of the Channel ports, IDBs received men on arrival from England and kept them in training while they awaiting posting to a unit at the front. Each infantry division originally had its own IBD, which was established as it crossed to France. Thus 9 IBD would have supported 9th (Scottish) Division and would have supplied reinforcements to all the battalions in it, each regiment represented in the division having its own camp within the IBD. The divisions taking part in the first phase of the Somme had such heavy casualties that their IBDs were unable to bring them back up to strength, which meant calling on other IBDs, with reinforcements often having to change their cap badges as a result. At the beginning of August 1916 a new policy was introduced: each IBD would now be responsible for supplying drafts for all battalions of particular regiments, usually three or four per IBD. Matters changed again in December 1917 when the IBDs were given letter prefixes rather than numbers. Thus, for example 29 IBD became D IBD. The number of IBDs was also reduced and so each was supporting a greater number of regiments.

Until early 1918, Scottish troops did not expect the military authorities to post them to non-Scottish units but the strains on the system became acute in 1918 as the machinery for reinforcement began to break down. In April, the system that had been created by GHQ allocating Scottish reinforcements to Scottish units failed and the strength of feeling amongst Scottish soldiers at the change of posting policy was potent enough to create a focus for revolt and insurrection. On 20 April armed men wearing ‘Soldiers’ Workers’ Council’ arm-bands attacked the camp and herded all officers into the canteen where they were held prisoners all night and next day, while their guards told them it was the Communist Revolution. On 22nd April a Cavalry Division surrounded the Depot and troops of the 19th Corps surged in and quelled the mutiny, disarming the mutineers, whose leaders were tried at once by summary court-martial and those convicted taken out and shot.

In July 1918, the military authorities backed down in the face of mass dissent, and the system of reinforcement returned to the pre-1918 norm of Scottish troops to Scottish units.

This card appears to have been written by William Prentice of Partick in Glasgow to his wife on 7 April 1918 with words that echo the historical background of which he was about to be a part:

Here I am at last. I suppose you’ll be thinking I’ve forgot all about you “Eh”. I wouldn’t mind being with you now having a wee shuffle. When we came here, we played all the road in the train you know we had to do something to occupy us or there might have been some trouble. Everything was very sudden but never mind. I may be home beside you all soon again. Hope Jeannie and Julia enjoyed their holiday at Lundin Links. I haven’t heard from them since I saw you last.

Censorship Stamp and postmark

Passed by Censor No. 3404. The rectangular stamp, was introduced in October 1917 and was used in Europe until the end of the war.

APO S24, Calais-Beaumarais, was one of the S series of stationary Army Post Offices. This postmark looks more like 5.24

Sources: Life and Work; The 51St (Highland) Division During the First World War. Craig. F. French. PhD thesis December 2006; The Long, Long Trail
Researching soldiers of the British Army in the Great War of 1914-1919

World War II

This card published by Emile Lacour is postmarked by the Base Army Post Office 5 in Algiers which supported the British North Africa Force (“BNAF”) in 1942-43. It has been passed by the censor of the same base.

The Army Postal Service (“APS”) was not involved in the initial planning stages of Operation Torch, the 1942 Anglo-American invasion of North Africa. As a result, a Base post office was not established in Algiers until a month after the invasion and through no fault of the APS the mail services to the BNAF were very poor in the initial stages. This was worsened by the fact that a convoy carrying the Christmas mails was sunk.
After consultation between the military authorities and the APS, air links with the UK were established and both air letter and airgraph services were made available. Kodak established an airgraph processing station in Algiers, which was later to process the airgraphs sent by troops engaged in the Italian Campaign.

In theatre the mails were carried along the North African coast to the front lines by sea, rail and vehicles. The road service that operated over 500 miles from Algiers to the front was described as having the “the regularity of a town collection in peacetime Britain”. A staff officer with the 6th Armoured Division commented that “As soon as the tanks pulled out of battle, there was the mail waiting for them – incredible”.

Presumably the serviceman who sent it was sold this forty year old card on his way through Marseilles to the front.

Source: Unit History: British North Africa Forces


French military authorities distributed stamped envelopes and correspondence cards free of charge to the forces.

Oflag VI A

Soest, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

  • Oflag VI A

Oflag VI-A was a German POW camp for officers in Soest, a city roughly 50 km (31 mi) east of Dortmund. The industrialization of the Ruhr area throughout the 19th century did not reach Soest, which remained a small town. Under the re-drawing of political borders within the Reich by the Nazi Party Soest was placed in Gau Westphalia-South.

Built in 1938 as an infantry barracks, on 15 November, 1939 it took on a new role as a POW camp for Polish soldiers captured during the German invasion under the name Stalag VI E. In 1940, the role changed to that of officers’ camp. By 14 May that year, the first Dutch war prisoners transferred to the camp, joined shortly afterwards by Belgians and French prisoners. On 5 June 1940 it was named Oflag VI A.

The French Chapel, secretly set in an attic by prisoners of war, is now located at the attic of the Traces of War museum in the Netherlands.

During World War II, Soest was the target of several allied bomber raids targeting the marshalling yard, one of the biggest in the Reich, and the important battery factory Akku Hagen. In early April 1945, Soest suffered from major fighting as Allied forces captured the town. Though retaken by a German counterattack shortly thereafter, destructive front-line combat continued to rage in Soest and its environs at the eastern edge of the Ruhr Pocket until the Allies ultimately gained permanent control.

The camp was liberated by the 9th US Army on 6 April 1945. They discovered the most precarious living conditions, prisoners fighting among themselves to eat peelings. The camp was then used as a displaced-persons camp. The complex served as Belgian barracks until 1994. With the eventual closure of the Belgian and British army facilities, many of these properties were re-purposed for civilian use, abandoned, or demolished. The former Married Quarters area was converted to civilian housing. The Soest city archeology department was able to carry out prospecting excavations in 2017 before the site was redeveloped.

This sender: Jean Laguens’ name was linked with the Alliance française in 1947. Alliance française is an international organization that aims to promote the French language and francophone culture around the world. Created in Paris on 21 July 1883. its primary goal is teaching French as a second language. The Alliance was created by a group including the scientist Louis Pasteur, the diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps, the writers Jules Verne and Ernest Renan, and the publisher Armand Colin.

Sources: wikipedia: Soest; OFLAG (1940-1945), des officiers en prison

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