Advent Calendar: 15 December – WWI Christmas Cards

Christmas cards were very popular during the First World War, perhaps bringing a sense of normality during a time of year when family would be most missed by those at the front.

Edith Mercy Walter received letters from her brother Henry John (known as Jack) Patching while he served in the British Expeditionary Force in France. His correspondence included Christmas cards. One sent in 1915 features a sinister illustration of Santa Claus by the artist W Heath Robinson (ms38661/2/1/6/6). A further card sent to Edith (Ede) and her husband Hal in 1916 includes an illustration reproduced from the magazine Punch, “Comrades in Victory” (ms38661/2/1/6/12).

Sadly, Jack was to die not long after Christmas 1916. A letter from the No. 7 General Hospital in France informed Edith of her brother’s death of cerebrospinal meningitis the same day he was admitted to hospital, on the 11 February 1917 (ms38661/2/1/7). He is buried at the Longuenesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery in France. Tragically for Edith, her husband Edwin Harold Walter was also to die in the war from wounds he received while serving in Palestine later the same year.

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