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From the trenches with love

The album that will be treasured by the family.
The album that will be treasured by the family.

Postcards penned in the trenches a century ago are sending a Donington woman on a quest to discover more about her soldier grandad’s service in the First World War.

Retired teacher Margaret Wright said the postcards were sent by her grandfather Harry George Tarr - later known in the family as George - and treasured by her grandmother Alice, who kept them in an album.

Many of the postcards are beautifully decorated with intricate lace and thanks to a trip to Cromer, where the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow was filming, Margaret has found out a little bit of history connected to the cards.

Margaret said: “The expert at the roadshow told me there was quite a thriving cottage industry in France where women in the villages, or what was left of the villages, set up little workshops and made these highly decorative, lace cards.

“They have a little flap over them and then inside is a tiny little card with a message written on it.”

Although it started as a cottage industry, businesses moved in and employed the women to make the cards.

Margaret also found postcards considered racy for the time, women in off-the-shoulder garments and with their stocking suspenders showing.

Some of the postcards sent home from the trenches.
Some of the postcards sent home from the trenches.

Censors were at work, not “policing” the images but obliterating any part of a message that could give away military secrets.

But many of George’s tender messages were about family matters.

George and Alice’s first child, Eric, was born on February 28, 1917.

On December 15 that year, he wrote: “My Dearest Alice. Just a card to let you know I am still in The Push. Sorry to say I have heard nothing yet about leave. Weather is now fine but very cold.

“Hoping this finds everything going well at home with yourself and baby. I am quite well. Fondest love and kisses to you both. Yours ever, Harry.”

Margaret found the album after her mum, Doris, passed away in 2007.

She remembers her grandfather well but says he didn’t speak at all about his wartime life.

“He was the most gentle, gorgeous, lovely man,” said Margaret. “He was just a self-contained, very quiet man.”

Margaret and husband Raymond have two sons, Tony and John, and the treasured album is staying within the family. Its financial value is tiny, while the family history is priceless.

George was a promising footballerand Margaret says, as a young man, he played in some capacity for West Ham.

Margaret said: “His parents said ‘you are not doing that for a living, it doesn’t pay enough ... make hats’.”

So George, who was brought up in East London, became a milliner but eventually lost one job in the trade because the factory was destroyed by German bombs in World War Two.

Margaret says George was given a letter, explaining that the factory had been destroyed, so future employers wouldn’t think he was out of work because he was idle.

George was born in 1887 and passed away in 1970, two years before Alice died.

Margaret was bowled over by her visit to The Antiques Roadshow, saying how nice the experts were and how patient they were.

“They started at 9am and when I left at 5pm, they had still got queues and queues of people.

“You get the impression from watching TV that it’s a pretty free and easy atmosphere and it is.

“They are exceptionally lovely people.”

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