By BRIAN KRAPF
There are known examples of Great War era postcards that depict Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty until his departure in 1915. Given his relatively short tenure after the war began, however, the Churchill cards are not as common as post cards depicting military figures, royalty or foreign allies. The one featured here is new to me and is quite unique.
The card was published in London and features various British leaders from early in the war, likely placing its publication shortly after the 5 August 1914 declaration of hostilities between Britain and Germany. King George V is flanked on the right by Prime Minister Herbert Asquith and Churchill. The two figures to the left of the King are General John French and General Ian Hamilton.
For the first year and a half of the Great War, Sir John French served as Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). After suffering losses in several early battles, French wanted to withdraw the BEF from the Allied line to reorganize. In May 1915, he leaked information about shell shortages to the press hoping to disparage his senior, Lord Kitchener, and spearhead his removal from office as Secretary of State for War. Instead, French lost his command in that summer and was replaced by General Douglas Haig.
At the outbreak of the Great War, General Ian Hamilton was appointed Commander-in-Chief, Home Army. He was also the commander of “Central Force,” the military unit comprised mainly of territorial soldiers tasked with defending the east coast of England from German attack. Beginning in March 1915, Hamilton held a key leadership role in the Gallipoli campaign; Lord Kitchener appointed him commander of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Forces charged with gaining control of the Dardenelles and capturing Constantinople, capitol of the Ottoman Empire.
Churchill and Hamilton had known each other since long before Gallipoli. After publishing London to Ladysmith via Pretoria (1900), Churchill wrote Ian Hamilton’s March (1900). The book describes General Hamilton’s campaign from Bloemfontein to Pretoria during the Boer War.