Dear Mary

Mary received many postcards during the First World War. The Waitaki District Archive holds 43 cards that were sent to her.

When I started researching for our exhibition From Little Towns in a Far Land we had no record of who sent or received these cards, just the names Mary, Holmes, Tom, Archie and Len. Volunteers transcribed the cards and I spent some time researching on the Birth, Deaths and Marriages website and on the Cenotaph Database until I identified Mary as Mary Hartley.

When the war started Mary was 27 years old. Her friends and family who were serving overseas wrote to her regularly. Often they wrote about her younger brother Holmes. He survived the war but died in a car accident in 1927.

France 7.6.17
Dear Mary,
Sorry I have not been able to write to you lately, been awfully busy. Saw Holmes 2 weeks ago looked splendid. I feel like he will get on alright. Long as you receive this card The Bosche will have received something he does not like. From your cousin Tom.

Mary’s cousin Tom Hartley regularly sent her cards. He wrote this 5 days before he was killed in action:

Belgium, 23.1.18
Dear Mary,
Just a line to let you know that I am still doing well. I suppose Holmes will be back to good old N.Z. by this time, I hope he gets a decent leave, this is a very much better winter than last year, so we have to be grateful.

Tom Ambler was another person who wrote to Mary. He served with the Veterinary Corps in Palestine and returned to North Otago after the war.

Dear Mary,
Just an old P.C. you might be beginning to think I had forgotten you but that could not be. I am still well and fit and often wonder if you got a move on down South or if you are still at Pukeuri. I had a letter from L.S. this mail but none from you for a good while. Things are finally quiet here just now not a great lot doing with our Brigade I believe J Frame has got a transfer to our mobile, will be much better than the Brigade for him he is keeping ok. Will write soon with very best wishes to All.
From T. Ambler

I haven’t been able to confirm who sent the postcards signed Archie or Len yet but I am hopeful we will find out.

Do you have any World War One postcards? Do you know who Archie or Len were?

This blog is part of the From Little Towns in a Far Land series. Chloe Searle, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the North Otago Museum, shares some of the personal stories behind the Waitaki District's contributions to the First World War.

Chloe Searle