On 10 January 1916, three brothers from the Gorton family – Tom, Fred and Herbert – enlisted in WWI. The brothers were from a family of 14 children to Noel and Ada Gorton who lived at Failford.
All three men arrived in France in October 1916 and fought in the bloody trench warfare of the Western Front. Fred and Herbert served in the 13th Battalion, while Tom served in the 19th Battalion. All three survived the war and returned home, but not unscathed. Tom and Fred were both wounded in action, while Herbert was twice wounded in action and listed “dangerously ill” with pneumonia.1 However from the muddy trenches of France and Belgium came these beautiful, delicate postcards.
These silk embroidered postcards were sent home by the brothers to their parents. While the messages accompanying the postcards are brief, they provided a great source of comfort to the family. The handmade postcards were first made around 1900, reaching popularity during WWI as a souvenir that servicemen could send home to their families. The cards were made by French and Belgian women in their homes using brightly coloured threads on silk material. Up to 25 designs were embroidered on rolls of silk and then sent to factories for cutting, assemblage and distribution. The cards were decorated with either patriotic or sentimental designs including flags, flowers and butterflies. During WWII the cards were produced again using machines but did not reach the popularity of their WWI predecessors.2
Authors: Janine Roberts and Ian Gorton
1 NAA: B2455; GORTON THOMAS NOEL; NAA: B2455; GORTON CHARLES FREDERICK; NAA: B2455; GORTON HERBERT ELLER.
2 Imperial War Museums, ‘Embroidered silk postcards’, viewed 9 November 2020 at https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/embroidered-silk-postcards; Australian War Memorial, ‘Guide to the Silk Postcard Collection’ https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/accessing-records-at-the-memorial/findingaids/guide-silk-postcard-collection