Thomas Williams served in a Welsh Regiment during World War 1. Tom’s home was a house named Talafon in the tiny village of Rhiw on the Llyn peninsula. During the war he sent a silk embroidered postcard to his mother, Elizabeth Williams. She treasured it and handed it down to her daughter, Mary, who in turn passed it on to her daughter Elizabeth, Tom’s niece. The card now belongs to parishioner Susan Wildman-Evans, Mary Williams’ great-granddaughter and Tom’s great-great niece.
The postcard Tom sent home was embroidered on silk. Although silk embroidered postcards first appeared at the Paris Exhibition in 1900, they reached the height of popularity during the First World War. A unique war-time industry, silk embroidered postcards were created by French and Belgian women to sell as souvenirs to soldiers posted to the Western Front. Strips of silk organza were originally hand-embroidered by women and girls in their homes or at refugee camps but as demand increased, production was moved to Parisian factories. Batches of embroidered strips were sent for cutting and mounting onto postcards, which were made available to purchase for a few francs. Hugely popular with British and American soldiers who bought the cards as mementos to send home to loved ones, it is estimated that some ten million silk embroidered postcards were made.
Images found on the cards include forget-me-not and pansy flowers, bluebirds, patriotic messages and symbols such as the flags of the allies, regimental crests and badges. These beautiful greetings would have been sent to loved ones giving no indication of what the soldiers were experiencing, sparing mothers and wives from the true horrors of war. Because many were proudly displayed for years on mantleshelves and bedsides, silk embroidered cards are often sun-bleached and faded, or stained from exposure to coal dust and nicotine. Known also by collectors as ‘WW1 silks’, silk embroidered postcards are highly collectable today.