James was a lance sergeant in D Company of the 28th Battalion. He collected and sent his 154 postcards from various camps in Alexandria, Marseilles, London, Wool, Wareham in Dorset, Andover on Salisbury Plain, Fovant in Wiltshire, Le Havre in Haute-Normandie and Reims in France's Champagne-Ardenne region.
The postcards were all digitised and made available online through the State Library’s WW1 Centenary Project. Whilst the images on the postcards are interesting, the real gold, the connection with the time, thoughts, and attitudes on their reverse sides where James’s wrote brief messages to his family.
Here are some examples. The image above might be titled 'On a Wallaby'.
Written on 11 July 1916, James and his mates are out of the trenches and—in his words—have been “On the Wallaby” in France for a few days. On the Wallaby in James’s case likely meant he and his mates were on the move or on the road. Indeed, James tells his Dad he has just enjoyed a roadside dinner of Bully Beef and tea, heated by travelling cookers. He talks about the ideal weather they were enjoying and only having to do 10 to 12 miles a day. This most likely indicates that James’s battalion only had to march 16 – 19 kilometres.
“Skating is a popular pastime…”
The Anzacs made the best of their time. Written on 30 January 1917, James writes to Mother and tells her the sun is shining for the first time in weeks and that Wareham was experiencing its coldest weather in 40 years! He goes on to tell Mother that the Anzacs enjoy ice skating but don’t have ice skates…so they ice skate in their army issue boots instead!
Like so many others, James knew full well what may await him. Written on 24 July 1916 James wrote to his mother confirming his hopes for her health and assuring her that he was well at the time of writing. He tells Mother that he will soon be off to “…the thick of it again…” that Dick is well and eager to “…come to grips with Fritz…”
There are many other postcards in the collection for you to explore. James’s legacy is a tantalising insight into his Anzac story: including notes about artillery shells landing near him, poison gas, and the necessary business daily of burials on the Somme. James’s postcards are a wonderful resource filled with insight about the experiences and times of Anzacs in World War One.
James died of wounds on active service in France, 11 June 1918.
Lest We Forget – Always Remember.