Found postcard from the Great War

A recent move of a family member brought boxes of treasure to go through and a happy discovery was a postcard from 1918 that was written by my great-grandfather, William Nicholls, to his parents and another card to his wife.

Family members tell me he was gassed during the war and moved to the West Coast on the advice of his doctor.

There were actually two postcards of the same picture and they have Engelskirchen written on the front of them.

This he wrote to his wife Ethel on the back of one: “Tell everybody I am getting along fine and cannot tell when I will be home. Wishing it will be soon but no one can tell. It is a fine day, the first one for a long time. I thought it was never going to stop but I think it is all over. We are having some sports on ???, some races and some over stunts. I must close for now.

There is no date on this card but the one to his parents is dated Dec. 30, 1918.

Here is the front of the postcard.

Thanks to M who found these CEF Attestation documents online at Library & Archives Canada (LAC) website and for the Matheson fire plaque .


23 thoughts on “Found postcard from the Great War

  1. The Armistice between the warring nations was achieved weeks earlier.
    William is in Germany apparentlyand certainly sounds like he’s still in uniform.
    Not necessarily in that village, maybe sent while on Leave?
    Parents in Bracebridge ?
    A wife – where’s she living and any idea when were they wed?
    It will be interesting for you and children to organize this material and
    find many thing to look about those earlier relatives’ eras.

  2. 75th Battalion,
    My great-grandfather’s service papers indicated he was single. Just found out in our recorded history that he married Ethel in 1920.
    His parents, Euphemia and Daniel, did live in Bracebridge. He went up north to the Matheson area to farm for a while and then returned to Bracebridge, where my grandmother was born in 1921.
    Checking to see if there are any photographs of him in uniform.

  3. He is single in fall of 1917, showing a parent, his mother as NofK.
    Had he married before May 1918 re “1st Central Ontario Regt.” A2
    at bottom, wouldn’t this document be altered so the wife is NofK..
    From Matheson to Toronto depot, then to war, combat including gas
    but ok for Occupation service in in Germany, then back to Canada,
    likely the spring of 1919. Resettles in Bracebridge, presumably with
    some veteran benefits – such as they were in those days compared
    to nowadays. That’s a lot of experience and geography in a brief time.
    (May have an image of a poster somewhere that outlines the benefits,
    pay etc.)

  4. Hi 75th Battalion,
    Yes. He married afterward. Just updated my comment above too.
    My mother found a photo of him in uniform with his kilt.
    Will add to the blog once I receive photo. We’re working on piecing this together by phone as I’m writing this.

  5. KILT – great. Could this be the great 48th Highlanders? You
    can google that name for regimental history, uniform.
    re “Depot” ref, there is something on that wonderful website, the
    ‘Great War Forum’ —[1st Central Ontario Regiment was part of
    the “Territorial Regiment System” that was created in Canada
    to recruit and provide basic training for the overseas Expeditionary
    Force after 1917. . Basically the 1st Central Ontario Regiment was
    a reinforcement unit based in Canada, and an umbrella organization
    which included other battalions. It fed soldiers into the system in a
    directed manner. . ]

    • 75th Battalion,
      Yes. Found out he was with the great 48th Highlanders.
      Not sure what is meant by our “casual” attitude.
      I just mentioned that his photo was in kilt. Thanks to your suggestion it may be 48th, I did take a closer look at the photo just supplied by my mother (which I will get scanned and post) and saw the insignia.
      Is exciting to piece this together.

      • Hi. Hope birthday went well.
        By “casual” to Any1, just expected some excitement at finding
        kin in the kilt, vs usual khaki uniform. But it’ll mean more as
        as you find out details of young farmer William at war. Quite
        a trip abroad, Matheson Ont, to Occupied Germany…

  6. @75th…You are well-informed and offer fascinating information here. Curious if you are a military historian/scholar or geneologist by profession or a hobbyist, obviously with a keenly developed interest in this.

  7. One doesn’t have to be any of those experts to be aware of
    the CEF Attestation documents LAC’s had online since the
    early days of the internet. Nor of VAC Virtual War Memorial
    over a decade online, covering our Fallen from 1899 to today.
    If you googled “75th Battalion” you would find that it became
    another kilted regiment after that war, the Toronto Scottish.
    Hence the interest in Pte. Nicholls and the casual attitude
    the Rumleskis have toward a Kilted regiment – the Ladies from
    Family photos, old clippings and letters home keep both war
    eras fresh in our memories, and it is interesting to be able to
    look things up, verify information up now that the Internet gives
    easy access to information once miles away in repositories.
    One can even see the newspaper cover of such actions as Vimy
    and Dieppe where these forerunners served.
    If no one in the military on your family tree, pick some person of
    interest and follow him or her through events that our generations
    are not called on to experience as amateur “citizen soldiers” as
    our militia relatives were early in the 20th century. You will see
    history with new eyes…
    Try ‘Alexis Hannum Helmer’ – what was his role in our history
    he is largely forgotten for ?


  8. @75th…Thanks for the introduction to sources of topics in this discussion for which previously I personally had little direct working knowledge (LAC-Library and Archives Collection; VAC Virtual War Memorial; Canadian Great War Project; Great War Forum; Veterans Canada, e.t.c). All quite interesting.

  9. Anyone, you just need an angle to become interested in
    our national military history. Lord knows what is taught
    in schools these days…Colouring poppies on Nov. 11?
    We are blessed in good resources, not well publicized.
    You might have fun looking up what famous men did in the
    Great War, anyone born by 1900 and here in 1914.
    Fred Banting, Mike Pearson,John McCrae (see above
    suggestion),,,Another study is the names on the IODE
    Soldier Monument re Boer/South Africa in Victoria Park.
    Start with VWM for Donegan, John for posted image,
    Read all 7 for any correspondence re raising gravestone
    funds. Gives a real feel for those times..the citizen soldier
    vs today’s professional military.

  10. @ 75th…Thanks again. Absolutely fascinating and totally engrossing. Appreciate the great tips on how to explore and delve into the topic. Your wonderful suggestions are what some teachers would call “Study Guides” for further reference and learning. Most welcome.

    Having spent some time on the various related sites I must confess and share a pervasive feeling of sadness. The stories of struggle, sacrifice and heroics, triumphs and tragedies (truly a slice of the human condition through the ages) also tells a story of wanton waste, destruction, foolishness, and diversion of, if not perversion of, human potential.

    It is an open question whether historians a few thousand years hence will see such wars as we do today: as cornerstones of nationhood and identity that are memorialized as romanticized glorious victories, or will they see this particular conflict and the many since in our era, as touchstones of insanity and the origins of a further century or two of unresolved or perpetrated/residual and seemingly perpetual conflict, that may be seen ultimately as an indictment to our epoch’s misplaced priorities, misguided belief systems, flawed leaders, vainglory, ego and ignorance.

  11. Well, the thing about CEF and VWM is they don’t
    philosphize about War. They simply identify the men and
    women swept up in the 1st world war (CEF), and those
    who did not return from all for over a century (VWM).
    Men at Vimy and Dieppe did etc.did not have the civilian
    luxury of wondering how history would treat them.
    They just did the job in front of them. And those at home
    when the daily Casuaty lists were published in the local
    paper did not go on about what concerns you. The bereaved
    just got on with raising the children of the Fallen with pride
    in their willingness to put their lives on the line when Duty called.
    The Returning Soldiers/vets also did not sit in classrooms
    commenting on history, they got back to civilian life, putting those
    difficult years behind them, until recent interest has led to recording
    individual long ago adventures of the now-old timers.
    One day the WW2 papers will be available, currently not posted
    for privacy reasons. Our VWM is unique – created by taking all
    “Canadian” entries in the Imperial/now Commonwealth War
    Graves Commission
    database – in charge of those pretty cemeteries for those of
    Known Graves – and made our online-only,interactive Memorial.
    The public is asked to send in JPEG images photos, clippings,
    artifacts, anything that helps recapture the individual identity of
    an man, boy or woman who died in this country’s uniform.
    Too many identity files are empty still…
    You might want to read up on the CWGC itself – envisioned late
    in the Great War provide a decent grave for our then-Empire
    war dead.
    Historians of their present, the one’s who served with the military
    are more interesting than future academics who might think it
    was madness of us to help stop Hitler subjugating Europe, to
    sell books.

  12. Since you write off photos, I want to note that I didn’t think our family had a photo of my great-uncle who died in France during WWII.
    Found one of him in uniform when my mother dug out her files to see if we had one of Grandpa Nicholls in uniform.
    Luck struck twice this week.

    • Big Oops here.
      75th Battalion,
      Meant to say “Since you write OF photos” not write off photos. I know you, like me, are excited when photos turn up of those who served the country.
      The first thing I said to my mother about great uncle Allen Olimer was that I can now send this photo to the virtual war memorial. We went to the peace chapel on the day the page with his name on it was changed in a respectful ceremony.
      They really are gold!

  13. Hey, not writing off photos – they are solid gold!! Not
    all families were lucky enough to have one, or at least
    have it passed down this far, in a family group.
    Just a kneejerk reaction from one whose men went off
    to the next war in a different kilt, that of Hodden gray.
    Our finest and most distinctive units who march to the
    swirl of the bagpipes..a very exciting find in any family!
    – Now, can you send a JPEG image the Great Uncle
    off to his Virtual War Memorial file ? Put your cutline in
    the Text box, and maybe include your names as donor.
    As much as you can cram in for others who may be
    searching his name some day.
    (Info in the first questions group does not appear with your
    Image contribution.)
    Your mum is going to be well prepared when she gets up
    to Matheson and talk turns to its wartime contributions…

  14. While I try to convince our hostess “casual” meant only no
    whoops and hollers at finding a Kilted image. Others unfamiliar
    with Canada’s regimental regalia might want to google 48th
    Highlanders and see the dress uniform. You see it on TV when
    there are parades, the red jacket and dark tartan thrilling. Kathy’s
    photo would not be in colour back then so less startling. Compare
    with the drab uniform of other units. For the perpetuator of the 75th,
    google Toronto Scottish and its uniform matching that of the UK
    London Scottish. Irish kilts to for those of that ilk.
    The camoflauged pajamas today are less memorable for future
    generations to identify with.

  15. I don’t know…and who knows what “future academics…might think” it’s just a point of departure to contemplate a wider context on this theme.
    The historical record will always be written and rewritten with new knowledge about cause and effect and consequences will be well-studied. History may even recognize those unsung average perople who oppossed the insanity, or were caught up as innocent civilian bystanders to the folly of Empires, or who sufferred the pain and loss without medals and glory.

    Somehow, I certainly hope that academics don’t find that “stopping Hilter” would be considered “madness”. Of course he and his ilk were ‘glorified’ and many were called to “duty” in his name in his time. And unfortunately many have since invoked him as an ideal to their people…i.e. Saddam Hussein, Pinochet, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, skin-heads, racists, disaffected loners, those wishing to sell books, e.t.c). But I do think that exploring the idea of ‘subjugation’ and its and its corollary Empire-building will be an easy argument to study. The idea of ‘subjugation’ could very easily be explained as the root cause of “Empire” as you describe it and its related ideals were as a matter of fact employed by each side to convince their people that oppression of the other was simply a matter of “duty” and their very existence as loyal subjects depended on their heaading the call. Afterall, a subject in an Empire is subjugated and by definition in turn needs to subjugate others to justify and continue the existence of the Empire. Many wrong-headed decisions have been justified under the cloak of Patriotism.

    On a personal note: more than half of the teachers at my high-school in Canada were WWII and Korean War vets. (Captains, Colonels, Majors)—so I guess some of them did “sit in classrooms commenting on history,” more than half of my family served their countries (some under various flags and various wars (1900’s to present) some Privates, Pilots, Yeomen, Lieutenants, and an Admiral and a General, some of my family as civilians perished in the cross-fire, the aftermaths, the retributions, the famine, dislocation and arbitrary borders, destruction and depravity brought on by war. None, no one, ever marched in a parade or mentioned to us their “pride in their willingness to put their lives on the line.” All were very clear in their admonition to us, warning us to be forever questioning, free-thinkers, and not to be too quick to salute the manipulators, tricksters and their siren-song of glorified death.

  16. Sorry, have no interest in contemplating the larger picture.
    This is just about Canadians enhancing their 20th century
    family trees by finding out what happened to ancestors
    when our country went to war overseas. The wars
    happened. Some came back and went on to create families,
    others did not. Yes we have pride in an uncle’s Military Cross
    for having no thought for himself when he led a charge at
    Vimy. We admire men like Padre Foote who refused to
    leave the Dieppe PoWs. Many of us had kin in earlier wars
    overseas but that is not what’s being discussed as Mrs.
    Rumleski and Kathy look at their family artifact collection.
    We like parades here and regimental bands and traditional
    uniforms as do most of the countries we have visited.
    Why knock Kathy off her stride by suggesting her kinsmen
    were victims, when we see those generations as brave men
    who responded to their country’s needs.
    Repeat. this is not about War, it is about individual ordinary
    Canadians who lived here in those years and served in our military
    and the families who waited. Others may be interested too but
    not appreciate your contempt.
    Subject closed.

  17. Kathy – OOPS accepted. Although my reaction
    was re finding a kilt in old photos, and the easier
    access to with whom the man served. And the colour
    of the uniforms and the bands, imagery that should
    fascinate your youngsters. Tougher when the unit
    was engineers, farriers, forestry, signals etc, with
    just patches to decipher.

  18. The plaques of dozens of WWI and WWII war dead at my high-school were not heroes leading a charge they were conscripted students on ships sunk at sea. Sorry, but I would say they were victims, participating in something way out of their control or understanding…the hope of a generation wiped out…for what? fish food.

  19. Amazing – all conscripted and all assigned to the Navy and to
    ships which were sunk. No volunteers, no soldiers or airmen.
    Their bereaved families, however, may not share your contempt.
    Perhaps you could let the Rumleski family honour their ancestors
    anyway? The topic is what happened, not whether it should have.

  20. To all families, to all who have sacrificed and served: My personal tribute of respect and honour. To remember them all is noble and righteous.

    So many, too many have sufferred…paid the ultimate price. Perhaps time will salve the sorrow of loss and help us better to learn, to forgive, to question, to understand and pray we don’t repeat the mistakes of our forefathers and mothers.

    I have no contempt to their memory.

    Just disdain for glorified memorials to killing fields, slaughter and cannon-fodder. Pity too, not “admiration” for stupid orders and “just following orders.”

    But just think, wouldn’t it be wonderful if future generations would celebrate not battles fought, but battles averted. Romantic statues of peaceful negotiations, and mediators. Imagine the ‘No more war’ national holidays, and parades of truth.
    Cloying institutionalized lies, patriotic propoganda and ritualized justifications for war will be seen as bizzare artifacts from an unenlightened age.

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