Royal Reels: Gambling


This home-made postcard was made from cut-outs of red Australian KGV heads and postage due stamps pasted to the front of a blank “Graphic’ post card that was sent, presumably under cover (as there were no stamps for postage nor postmarks), to an Australian soldier in Egypt on leave from fighting at Gallipoli in Turkey. The design was drawn in black ink, but the red and green colour was filled in by the stamps.

The comical design was of a woman with a plumed hat racing after a fleeing rooster who had already lost three of his tail feathers. The woman’s words are printed top left: “HE LOVES ME- HE LOVES ME NOT” and the scared rooster’s words are printed bottom left: “LET GO FLORA, I’M OFF TO THE FRONT” (Figure 1).

The sender’s writing fills the entire reverse of the card from left to right, and it is almost totally legible in spite of the density of the message. It reads: “Geelong. Ararat. 19th Jan 1916. My dear Norman, was so glad to get your letter of Dec & know the wallet arrived & that you liked it. I thought that the ‘old Maggie’ would appeal to you. This card is one of others done by a girl in town for the Red X funds.

Don’t you think that it is clever! I think that Belle sent you one before. Since writing, all you said in your letter re Gallipoli did come true, what a wonderful thing it was to evacuate so successfully under the very noses of the Turks. One wonders where you all will be sent now. You must be tired of Egypt, but what a wonderful country it is to be in, if only you had time to explore & enjoy all its wonders.

Life is very quiet here. We are back in Ararat for good now & it’s good to be in our home once more. The country has been looking beautiful but of course it is very dry now, but never have I seen the grass so long. Hope that there will not be bad bush fires. Since we left Ararat, a new resident has taken up his abode here, and long may he and his family remain. He is an English blackbird. I have never heard their ‘So fa’ (song) inland before. He often visits our garden in spite of Pat – (our only cat now). I am afraid that he even puts the dear old thing in the shade. This one is so sweet.

I hope that you got the socks I sent some time ago. Will knit you another pr. soon if they will be of use. Having a lovely summer, lovely S. breezes with the exception of a few scorchers. Will write soon as ( ). Best respects, V.

I think that the evocative contents of the letter are as good as the pictorial front of the postcard, and it is amazing how much information she fits onto the card, with such fine writing (in both senses of the phrase).

World War I was not going so well for the Allies in 1914-15 on the Western Front, and it was decided to attack the Germans by defeating her weaker allies, Austria-Hungary and Turkey. The originally conceived naval attack on the Dardanelles in February-March 1915 was unsuccessful and was later aborted. A land attack on the Turkish forts by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) forces was commenced, and it was a heroic but costly failure. On December 19 and 20, 1915 the ANZACs were withdrawn and the last of the British forces withdrew by January 8, 1916.

While a failure, Gallipoli became a household word in Australia and with it the ANZAC tradition was created. The troops were withdrawn to Egypt, as suggested in the postcard. The battle-worn troops on the beach awaiting withdrawal are shown in Figure 2.

A shorter version of this paper was published in the N.S.W. Philatelist, May 2003, Volume 25, Number 2, pages 13-14.