Battle of the Somme Postcards


The work of the image 'Improver'


An interesting feature of several of the Daily Mail Somme cards is that 'improvements' were made to the original images. This is noticeable when two similar postcards are compared side by side.There are a number of such examples in the guide to The Daily Mail Official War Postcards and the two cards illustrated below - are a splendid example of the image 'Improver' at work.

After the release of the first ten series, a press announcement said that the next ‘set’ would be of special interest.

“On Monday, a magnificent new set of The Daily Mail Official War photographs will be on sale all over the country. It illustrates the King’s recent visit to the front, and will be a unique memento of the great world-war.”

Series 11 was devoted entirely to depictions of the King’s August visit to the front and were produced in the coloured format. Series 12, for some extraordinary reason, was an exact repetition of the eight pictures of the king’s visit in the proceeding series,  except that this time they were in photogravure. A comparison of the two series shows that some of the colour reproductions had been ‘touched up’ or ‘improved’.


"THE SMILE OF VICTORY." Cards 81 (below) and 89 (above) showing the art of the 'improver' at its most notable. The door in number 89 is closed in 81 (the coloured version). The lower step has been extended in card 81 and even the greenery behind Haig has changed. The location of the meeting is Sir Douglas Haig's chateau at Beauguesne. It was here that he had his HQ  while on the Somme. The occasion is the King's visit to meet Allied leaders. From L. to R. General Joffre, M. Poincare, King George V, General Foch and Sir Douglas Haig. The date is 9th August 1916. This well-known photograph was taken by official cameraman Ernest Brooks .

Here are two more 'improved' cards from The King at the Front series...

A picture from "The King at the Front" series, which depicted King George and King Albert of Belgium '...enjoying an anecdote.' was issued twice as No.82 in colour (Series XI) and No.90 in photogravure (Series XII). Before publication one of the cards was 'improved'. On the improved card (No.82) the angle of the roof appears flatter, chimney stacks have been removed, window frames reduced in size, walls have been white-washed and it seems that a post behind Albert has disappeared (But has it?  See the eBook for the answer). Most extraordinary of all, a foot seemingly aimed at George has mysteriously vanished! Who the foot belonged to can be seen in The War Illustrated of 9th September 1916.                


As mentioned above - a number of cards in The Daily Mail Official War Postcards collection depict the work of the 'Improver', some of the changes are obvious and some are less so. Moreover, although there are more examples in the eBook, where the 'improver' has been at work, I am quite sure there will be other 'improved' cards which I have not commented on or even noticed.

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