Postcards from the Great War

These World War 1 postcards from Buffalo State Archives and Special Collections are interesting yet disconcerting, in part because of how terribly young some of the soldiers look.

It’s unusual that so many of the images are from German postcards. The Germans lost the war, of course, and much of their history from this time period was destroyed.

But before I go any further, please remember to enter the November drawing to win a signed copy of Grievous Deeds: The True Story of Four Years of Fury in Chattanooga, Tennessee

This German soldier could pass for 14 years old… and who knows, maybe he was.

German soldier circa 1916


This British soldier and sailor didn’t look much older.

British soldier and sailor, circa 1916

Unknown German Soldier 1915


German Artillery on Horseback 1916. Those helmets!


German Soldiers with Civilians 1916


Many of the postcards had a longing feel to them.

German Soldier Thinking of Home 1918

Pressure to Enlist – A Call to Arms 1918

In the autumn of 1914, enlistment efforts went beyond subtle calls to perform one’s patriotic duty. Sermons were used to urge young men to join up. Men who were not in uniform were often the recipients of white feathers–a symbol of cowardice–which discouraged young women from dating them and made them a target for others.

This postcard from a French husband to his wife has a surviving message on the back.

Loving Husband, circa 1915

Translation: Dear wife, I am rushing to write you this letter to wish you a happy day and good luck. May God give us the good fortune to be together again and to be as happy as we were before. May he give you the chance to have a baby, it’d be our happiness. The one who kisses you from the bottom of his heart, your husband forever.

Buffalo State Archives and Special Collections