Arthur Dick's Postcard Collection; 1915-1918; 2014.07

From

Port Macquarie Museum

Name/Title

Arthur Dick's Postcard Collection

About this object

This unique collection of over 200 scenic and patriotic postcards, letters and greeting cards, records the frequent communication between Arthur Morrison Dick, a young Port Macquarie soldier serving overseas with the Australian Imperial Force during World War I, and his family and friends at home in Australia.

Arthur Dick was 21 when he enlisted with the 17th Battalion, 1st Reinforcements on 7 April 1915 (Service No. 1538) and he travelled first to Egypt, before seeing action in Gallipoli and France. He was wounded twice while serving in France and spent time recuperating in England before visiting Scotland and Ireland whilst he was on leave. At the age of 22, he was awarded the Military Medal for “Great courage and bravery in the bombing attack at Pozieres” and was elevated to Sergeant in the 2nd Machine Gun Battalion before returning to Australia on 21 January 1919.

Members of the Dick family lived at “Belbowrie” on Hastings River Drive in Port Macquarie for more than 80 years between the late 1800s and mid 1970s. Arthur had 13 siblings and the close family bonds are evident in the messages on the postcards that were sent to him and from him. Sometimes the messages were brief, but rather than write one card or letter to the whole family, he sent individual cards and letters replying specifically to the messages sent to him by his parents and brothers and sisters. He always signed off as “your ever loving son, Arthur” or “your ever loving brother, Artie” and frequently added as many xxxxx (kisses) as would fit on the page after his signature.

Arthur’s collection begins with a postcard showing him on the deck of the HMAT Themistocles sailing from Sydney on 12 May 1915, while the last card in the collection was sent from England where he was convalescing, and is dated 28 November 1918. The majority of the postcards from Egypt and the United Kingdom have coloured scenes while those sent from Gallipoli and France are mostly sombre and in black and white.

Although many of the cards from France show buildings destroyed as a result of the War, Arthur generally sent positive messages home, however on a couple of occasions he wrote only a few lines and there is a hint of despair. He glossed over his injuries and the carnage he undoubtedly witnessed, instead focusing on the sights he had seen and the places and people he had visited. His comments are quite understated, for example after being awarded the Military Medal he wrote to his Dad, saying “I intended sending you a nice present……but I was not able to do so. The small tumbler you can drink your hot toddies out of and the pipe is only a souvenir. The medal is mine although it has the wrong initials on it, one of the many mistakes in our army”. And while being treated for months to recover from ‘trench feet’ he writes “Still in hospital but doing bonza. I am walking about, my toes are still sore. We have a bonza time in our Ward, always somebody to play the piano and give us some sing-songs & we get bonza treatment from the nurses and sisters.”

Many of the cards sent from home have printed messages and brief general greetings, perhaps indicating that no other personal message could adequately express the feelings of the sender. His future wife Nita Graham sent a card with the printed message “For Our Soldiers: Take heart and courage, Life has much of beauty, Thousands will pray that Christmas Day may bring, Peace to the hearts of those who did their duty for Country, Home and King”. Inside was another printed message “Christmas Greetings and all good wishes for the coming year” and on the page behind this message Nita wrote simply “To Dear Artie With love from Nita G”.

The sending, receiving and distribution of mail and parcels to soldiers in the field was a huge task, but the authorities were well aware that communication no matter how trivial was of the utmost importance as a morale booster and for providing comfort and connection with family and friends at home. English journalist, Basil Clarke explained how vital it was, saying “letters from home were as essential in their way to a soldier in the field as food and supplies, for just as food is needed to keep him in fighting trim, so is news of relatives and friends to keep him in good spirits and fighting mood”. The importance and pleasure of hearing news from home is expressed in one of Arthur’s letters when, on 3 August 1915, he wrote from Gallipoli to his brother Bert “Received your letter dated 24 June today-could not eat my tea as I was so pleased to get the news”.

By 1917 a building which covered five acres at Regents Park in England had to be constructed to cope with the volume of mail. At this time, 2,800 soldiers and civilians were employed to sort over 12 million letters and over 1 million articles every week. No doubt many of the cards and letters sent and received during World War I were saved by other soldiers because of their special messages and the comfort they provided, but Arthur Dick’s collection is possibly unique because it covers the whole period of his overseas service from May 1915 to the end of 1918, and it contains historic photographs of both overseas and Australian locations taken during that time.

The collection is also special because it gives us an indication of the character of Arthur Dick as he constantly expresses his concern and affection for his family and friends at home, despite having to cope daily with the conflict, turmoil and uncertainty on the battlefields. Similarly the collection is a testament to the love and respect held for Arthur by his family and friends who kept his cards and letters as enduring reminders of the feelings, life and conditions experienced by their local hero whilst he was serving abroad during the First World War.

Margaret Blight
15 August 2015

Date Made

1915-1918

Medium and Materials

Paper, cardboard, ink

Subject and Association Keywords

Wars

Credit Line

Donor: Lillian Campbell

Object Type

Postcards

Object number

2014.07

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