POSTCARDS played a significant role in the First World War, with millions sent home by soldiers of all combatant countries. They are an important source material, reflecting life at the Front and back home.

The publishers of Reflections of a Bygone Age, a series of 10 picture postcard books looking at life in the past, have produced a First World War collection covering such areas as joining up, women at war and propaganda.

The series includes Yorkshire at War 1914-18, featuring a varied selection of postcards, put into context by captions, which provide a fascinating study of the Great War. Among the postcards are embroidered silks and song cards.

Norman Ellis, who produced the book, writes: "Nobody alive has personal recollections of the 1914-18 war. When that conflict broke out, postcards were still in their heyday. They featured many kinds of warfare-related incidents. Some combinations of cards tell a story. Comic postcards ranged from innocently humorous to bitingly sarcastic, and were used as a tool to lampoon the German Kaiser and British politicians. Silk embroidered postcards were a wartime phenomenon.

"This book features a wide range of these picture postcards."

The camp of the Officers Training Corps at Ilkley is pictured in 1913. The card was posted from an officer to his parents in Coventry on July 26, 1913, stating that there were nearly 2,500 men at the camp.

In peacetime, Dennis & Sons of Scarborough were famous for their colourful postcards based on Yorkshire sayings. The book features a wartime deviation of these, with 'A Yorkshireman's Advice to his Soldier Son' - "Hear all and say now't, especially to a Hun, keep in touch with thi trigger and look for 'is figure, then speak to 'im - wi thi gun."

Some postcards capture the beginnings of the Pals battalions. One shows a recruiting office set up in City Square, Leeds, following Lord Kitchener's call for extra men, and a postcard of a 'recruiting car', a tram decorated in red, white and blue. After the Bradford Citizens' Army League was formed on September 20, 1914, a Bradford Pals Battalion was recruited within a week. A 1914 postcard shows Pals recruits, some still requiring uniforms. Recruits from Wharfedale are pictured in 1915.

The invasion of neutral Belgium by German troops led to atrocities against thousands of civilians. Some Belgians were given refuge in Britain, and one postcard shows men, women and children arriving at Halifax station in October, 1916.

Postcards of the east coast include images of hostilities at Scarborough on December 16, 1914 when two German battle cruisers firing at the town, with the lighthouse and Grand Hotel among many buildings hit. One card shows a solitary soldier standing in the shell-hit dining-room of the Palace Hotel.

Other cards highlight women in the war, at munitions works and in the Land Army, as well as convalescent hospitals, and, in later years, Peace Day processions and war memorials.

* The books are available from bookshops or online at

Emma Clayton