In my last post I shared a Christmas card that was sent by a New Zealand soldier who was about to head off to fight in the Battle of El Alamein in the Second World War. To make sure it arrived in time the card was sent on 1st October 1942, nearly three months before Christmas. Today I’m going to share another Christmas card sent by a New Zealand servicemen from an earlier conflict, the First World War.
Of all my vintage Christmas cards this one has some of my most favourite cover artwork, I hope it puts a smile on your face as it does for me.
The snow dusted soldier is wearing a lemon squeezer hat, as worn by New Zealanders in the two world wars. As far as New Zealand ‘active service’ Christmas cards go this is one of the more traditional scenes I’ve seen. The artwork is by George Patrick Hanna, who became well known as a post-war entertainer, traveling around with an act called “The Diggers”. A lesser known role he played was during the First World War when he acted as the N.Z. Division’s unofficial cartoonist.
This rare photograph from the Alexander Turnbull Library shows him at work.
I’m no expert in the field of art but there does seem to be a similar style between the caricature of Hindenburg in the photo and the smiling ‘Digger’ on the 1918 Christmas card. I know the year as it is marked on the inside.
It sometimes seems that every war ever fought was expected to be over by Christmas, so much so that it is almost a cliché to read letters or postcards from soldiers that share that sentiment. This time the sender was in luck. I don’t know exactly what date the card would’ve been dispatched for New Zealand but it is likely to be October, or perhaps even September (depending how anxious the sender was to make sure their greeting card arrived in time).
What the sender didn’t know is that an armistice would soon be signed and the fighting in France would end at 11 o’clock on the 11th day of the 11th Month. For once, the war really would be over by Christmas.
© Lemuel Lyes