The First World War was certainly not such a funny event that could be hilariously depicted on a postcard, especially for soldiers fighting and living in muddy trenches in the fields of France and Belgium. Nevertheless, the British would not be British if their artists — both military and civilian — did not treat even the darkest situations with humor.
The English sense of humor always played an important role in maintaining the spirit of soldiers and civilians at the proper level. Unlike the French or the Germans, whose wit was usually directed towards the enemy, the British did not mind making fun of themselves. When the first postcards with a humorous image of front-line life saw the light, they were so well received both at the front and in the rear that the number of stories began to count in hundreds. Nowadays, British satirical postcards from the First World War are a popular collectible and a valuable witness of that time.
One of the artists who created in the trenches a series of watercolors full of small details called “Sketches of Tommy's Life” was Private of the 23rd Royal Fusiliers division, a Canadian Fergus Mackain (1887-1924). Four sets of numbered postcards of 10 each were printed in Paris and Boulogne and distributed among the troops so that the soldiers could send them home. Later — reportedly due to lack of paper — the series were reduced to eight cards each. The series were logically divided: In Training, At the Base, Up the Line, Out on Rest. The accompanying text states:
“Let them know about your life in France. Send postcards from this series from time to time … There will come a time when you will be happy to have something like this to remind you of bright or funny episodes of the war. "
Below you can look at some of the postcards drawn by Mackain. The complete collection of works of the soldier-artist is available on the great website dedicated to his work: