The Great War Through Picture Postcards

Published on
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Guus de Vries
Other Publication Information
Hard Cover, 8.7” x 11.4”, 253 pages
Provided by: Casemate Publishers - Website: Visit Site
Front Cover

Originally published in the Netherlands in 2014 by S.I. Publicaties BV, this hard cover book covers the four year period of the ‘war to end all wars’. Translated into English by Britta Nurmann, Pen and Sword Books released the first English edition in in January 2016. Osprey Publishing released this reprint edition in August 2016. Dr. Guus de Vries has focused this book on three perspectives:

  1. How were the real events pictured?
  2. How were emotions and perceptions of the war communicated?
  3. Which artistic and stylistic devices were used to influence and manipulate public opinion?

Dutch historian Dr. Guus de Vries is a noted author of at least eighteen books on firearms and military history (i.e. The Fg42 Fallschirmjagergewehr, The Mg34 Machinegun, The Visser Collection, German Anti-Tank Weapons, The Mkb42, Mp43, Mp44, and the Sturmgewehr 44, The P08 Luger Pistol, The Mp38, 40, 40/1 and 41 Submachine gun, The K98k Rifle, Captured Arms/Beutewaffen, Hartmans’ Dutch Gunmakers from the 15th to the 20th Century, etc.). That’s not to count the many articles that have been published in magazines in Belgium, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Russia, the UK, and the USA.

The modern world probably does not understand the significance of the postcard anymore, but the postcard was essentially the social media for the years between 1914 and 1918 where some thirty billion postcards were mailed between the warriors on the front line and their families back home. What Guus de Vries presents in this book is a scan of the wide variety of photos or paintings that were used on these postcards running the gamut from political slogans to the horrid realities of life in the trenches. Satire and sex were prominently featured along with the war machines themselves. What got my attention was the sheer variety of postcards that were utilized in this relatively short time frame.

Guus de Vries provides a paragraph to elaborate on each postcard. Each chapter also includes a separate storyline providing the rough timeline and background for each chapter’s collection of postcards. Collectively, the postcards, descriptions, and text provide a special vision of World War One.

The Chapters include:

  • Introduction
    • War and Picture Postcards
      • Mail and Morale
      • Censoring
      • Propaganda
      • The Picture Changes
  • Themes: From Hatred to Love
    • Reality
    • Patriotism
    • Humour
    • Satire
    • Hatred
    • Sentiment and Romanticism
    • Pin-Ups
    • Anti-War Propaganda
  • The First World War
    • An Unnecessary Catastrophe
    • Reasons and Causes
    • Emperors, Kings and Generals
    • Tactics and Technology
    • Logistics
    • Total War
  • Countries and Armies
    • The Division
    • France
    • French Overseas Territories and Colonies
    • The United Kingdom
    • British Dominions
    • The Indian Army
    • Russia
    • America
    • Austria-Hungary
    • Germany
  • The Western Front
    • 1914
    • 1915
    • 1916
    • 1917
    • 1918
  • The Other Theatres of War
    • The Eastern Front
    • The Balkans
    • The Italian Front
    • The German Colonies: Africa, Asia and the Pacific Ocean
    • Turkey and the Middle East
    • The War at Sea
  • Old and New Weapons
    • Rifles and Carbines
    • Other Personal Weapons and Hand Grenades
    • Machine Guns
    • Artillery
    • Poison Gas and Flamethrowers
    • Tanks and Armored Vehicles
    • Defence and Protection
  • The War in the Air
    • Captive Balloons
    • Airships
    • Aeroplanes
    • Reconnaissance Planes
    • Fighters
    • Bombers
  • Transport and Communication
    • Communication and Coordination
    • Telephones, Radios and Telegraphs
    • Railways
    • Horses and Donkeys
    • Motorized Transport
  • In the Trenches and Behind the Lines
    • The Trenches
    • The Trench System
    • Front Line Service
    • Attack and Defence
  • Dead, Wounded, Taken Prisoner or Missing
    • Self-mutilation
    • Caring for the Sick and Wounded
    • Dead or Missing
    • Prisoners of War
  • The Home Front and the Neutral States
    • Politics and the Economy
    • The Civilian Population
    • The Role of Women
    • Women in the Workforce
    • The Neutral States
  • Further Reading
  • Index of Artists

This is a high quality book that surprised me with the variety of postcards that Guus de Vries included. You get clear, bright photographs of nearly 500 postcards, many in color. My thanks to Osprey Publishing and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this excellent book.

Highly recommended!


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