Christmas cards come in myriad forms, from the reverently pious through the cloyingly schmaltzy to the frankly naff. Humour, where it appears, is usually gently playful (Santa stuck in a chimney, Rudolf held up by celestial traffic lights) or achingly sentimental (boys playing snowballs, skating ladies dicing with thin ice).
Wartime, though, has a tendency to alter the emotional frame. This card, sent by the officers of 5 Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) in 1916, pokes fun at the enemy by depicting four stereotypical representatives of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey, queuing forlornly at a sign directing them to the 2nd Division’s dump. The image references the queues of walking wounded that would have been a familiar sight at any regimental aid station on the Western Front. For these victims, no relief from suffering beckoned.
At a time when much is being made of the so-called Christmas truce of 1914 it is salutary to recall that the overriding sentiment among British troops, at Christmas or any other time, was one of hatred and contempt for the enemy, especially as the war lengthened and the death toll ballooned.
Find out more about the Royal Army Medical Corps online archive.
Author: Dr Richard Aspin is Head of Research and Scholarship at the Wellcome Library.