Communication

Communication

Notice printed in the Inverness Courier during the first week of the war.
It didn’t take long for lines of communication to become established.

Letters were the principal form of communication between soldiers and their families during World War I. Hundreds of thousands of letters were sent by British soldiers back home every day. They were written in the trenches near the front line, in hospital beds far from the fighting and almost everywhere in between. Receiving letters from loved ones boosted morale immeasurably and postal deliveries were awaited with eager anticipation. Receiving a letter reassured soldiers that they were in the thoughts and hearts of their loved ones back home. Similarly, a letter in the soldier’s own hand offered his parents, siblings, wife and children the reassurance that he was still alive.

Parcels also provided comfort - home-made food, warm clothing and keepsakes from home were welcomed and cherished. Mass parcel-sending schemes were set-up and co-ordinated by philanthropic women’s groups and school children. These contained things like tobacco, socks, newspapers and books.

It didn’t take long for lines of communication to become established and the movement and delivery of letters, particularly between Beitain and the Western Front, was remarkably rapid. A letter or parcel posted in the Highlands could reach its recipient at the Western Front in 3 - 4 days. The content of letters was prescribed by the military authorities who were concerned about the effects that knowing the true horror of the war would have on the civilian population. Censorship was necessary to guarantee that sensitive information did not fall into the wrong hands, to identify subversion, and to assess the morale and well-being of troops.

This censorship meant that letters home took a little longer to arrive.

The shear volume of mail was partly a result of the popularity of postcards. Soldiers at the front were given military-issue cards with pre-printed messages ("I am quite well", "I am wounded", "I am in receipt of your letter", etc.). These were free, convenient, and easily mass produced but were generally disliked by soldiers so commercial postcards were highly sought after. Back at home, there was a huge choice of comical, romantic and patriotic postcards for the civilian population to buy and send to the troops.

Newspapers, both national and local, were constrained by censorship imposed by the government, the military and often their own proprietors and they effectively became propaganda tools. The Defence of the Realm Act (DORA), enacted within a week of the commencement of hostilities, contained regulations which prevented newspapers from publishing stories which could damage the morale of either serving personnel or the civilian population. Similarly, stories of German atrocities and barbarism were embellished or simply made up.

Reporters were initially banned from the Front with all news coming from official army sources. However, the ban was soon relaxed, on the understanding that bad news was not to be published.

To see how the war was reported in Highland newspapers, please visit this website - http://goo.gl/x53Wkq

 

[Text © High Life Highland; image by Highland Libraries]