Postcards from the Great War

By Marion Redpath in Community, People, Places, Events, & History

In today’s age of technology and instantaneous information, it is hard to imagine what it was like a hundred years ago for family members waiting for a postcard to arrive in the mail with news from overseas. My husband’s grandmother was Sarah Hall, who married George Redpath. They resided at Concession 11 in the township of Minto. It is fascinating to look through her old postcards, especially the ones from her brother Henry, who served in the Great War.
Henry Edmund Hall, born in May of 1880, was the second oldest of Edmund (Ned) and Mary Hall from the 8th Concession of Minto. As a young man, he began working for the railway in Stratford and Guelph before joining the Canadian Army as a member of 18th Battalion based out of London, Ontario.
The first card from her brother in Redpath’s collection shows “Valcartier Camp – Canada. Grenadiers Off to the Ranges” on the front. On the back, it appears that Hall has sent clothes and money back home: “Nov 20th, 1914, Dear Sister i am going to righ a short card i will righ a longer letter next i sint up my cloes and a check for $ ten did yo get it i will righ more the next tim with love to all from your brother next time Company 18 Battaion Queen Park London Ont”
We can only imagine the excitement and anticipation of Hall as he prepared to depart to England. On the front of his next postcard the description reads, ”Canadians marching to their camp on Salisbury Plain.” Written on the back, “London, Ont March 17.3.15 Dear sister i am well and hope you are the same. we expect to leave next week. our blankets goes away tomoron to get marked. we are having a big day on Friday. from your brother Henry Hall”
His first communication from overseas is a card that reads “Flags that help the Motherland” and shows flags from Canada, Australia, Cape Colony, and New Zealand. On the back Hall has written, “Sandling, May 3, 1915 Dear sister i am well and hope you are the same. how is everybody around home. how is mother keeping this summer. busy suppose. Alf will be busy with his new buggy by now. is George got a new one and how is the gravel road i gess it will be pretty good (ah) you adress my mail to me this way. Private Henry Hall 3409 B coy 18 Batt Sandling Camp Hythe Kent Engling”
Less than a week passed before Hall sent his next card showing the map of England with a soldier standing at a door that reads “NO GERMANS ADMITTED” and the title “KENT, The Doorway of England I had rather be a doorkeeper in the County of Kent than dwell in the Tents of the Huns” On the back, Hall has written, “May 8, 1915 i drop you a few lines to let you know what is going on. Thear aint much hear now it is all soldiers hear now. it is pretty hot. we got our baynots sharpened and we are getting new shoes and another new suit of close. Well good bye. Henry Hall”
Hall’s next postcard shows a soldier walking alongside another riding a horse and the caption reads, “At duty’s stern call, our Troops one and all. On the battle-field share in the brunt, To uphold England’s fame, they are ever the same As our enemy finds at the Front!” Hall has written, “Sandling Camp May 20, 1915. Dear sister i am well and hope you are the same. we are having a good time. i receaved a letter from you and was glad to hear from you. we are busy at the ranges this week and we are all making good. we are having lots of rain lately. with love Henry Hall”.
The last postcard from Hall in Redpath’s collection appears to be one from a set. On the front it reads, “COME BACK TO ERIN (4). O may the angels, O wakin’ and sleepin’, Watch ov’er my bird in the land far away. And it’s my prayers will consign to their keepin’, Care o’ my jewel by night and by day. When by the fireside I watch the bright embers, Then all my heart flies to England and thee, Cravin’ to know if my darlin’ remembers, Or if her thoughts may be crossin’ to me.” He has written, “July 3.7.15 Dear sister. i am well and hope you are the same. we are having fine hot weather now. i met some friends down at the wedding so i get some mail on this side to if I would go every place where they asked me I would need a month. i had ten days and a half so that wasent bad it i had a dandy time when I was away. they are taking a lot of fellows out of our band as Bomb thoring. you take the bomb in the hand and turn a screw and that lites it and it will be off in four secents so you have to be quick and some more for machine guns. we will have 16 machine guns to a company in sted of 4 so we ought to do some work what to you think. well I will say good bye for now with love xxx Henry Hall xxxxxx”
The postcards only tell part of the story. There were possibly letters as well that have long since been discarded. Hall did return to Canada after spending over a year overseas. According to the Hall Family History compiled by Frank and Elaine Hall of South Australia, he married Alice MacGregor in 1920 and after a brief period of time in Guelph, returned to the Harriston area. He was unable to work due to poor health from injuries sustained in the war. The Hall History states, “When serving in World War I as a sniper he was shot through the left kidney and the poison from that went to his heart at the time.”
An article discovered by Frank and Elaine Hall describes a presentation made by Mr. Hazelwood of Clifford to Private Hall on his return home from the war:
“We, a few of your many friends in the township of Minto, have much pleasure in uniting to express our appreciation of the sacrifice you have made and of the faithful service you have rendered King and Country during the 14 months you were actively engaged in fighting the enemy in the front lines. Our souls would be dead indeed if we failed in admiration and honour of all Canadians and others who like yourself have risked their lives in the great struggle for liberty and democracy, which has been going on for the past 3 years. We, who were acquainted with you before you enlisted in war, were quite confident that you would manfully and courageously strive to uphold the great name of Canada in battling for the freedom which all true British subjects hold dear, and it is gratifying to us to tell you how nobly you have done so.
It is with sorrow we learned of your misfortune in your being wounded and it is our hope and prayer that your recovery may be speedy and complete. It must at all events be a satisfaction for you to reflect that you with courage and devotion, did your bit in the momentous conflict.
As a mark of appreciation and an expression of our admiration for the unhesitating and courageous manner in which you performed what you believed to be your duty to Canada and the great British Empire, we beg your acceptance of this watch and purse of gold.”
On November 11th, we reflect on the sacrifices made by our Canadian soldiers for our freedom. Let us never forget.


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