By Bethany Lane, University of Glasgow MSc Museum Studies postgraduate student
Erskine Hospital was set up in 1916 by Professor Sir William MacEwen for the limbless soldiers and sailors of WWI and has continued to care for soldiers and veterans ever since. As they approach their centenary, I am cataloguing their wonderful collection of items and researching the objects’ stories. Each week, I will blog about the objects I have found to show the amazing heritage of Erskine.
This week’s find is a beautiful collection of silk embroidered postcards. Made popular after the Paris Exhibition in 1900, these postcards reached their peak in the Great War when British soldiers sent them home from the Western Front to their families and sweethearts. Crafted by French and Belgian women, the postcards were hand embroidered on silk with colourful depictions of flags, birds, rainbows, flowers and occasionally words. On some postcards, there is a small delicate silk pocket which holds a pre-printed card to write a sentimental line or two. There are rarely any notes on the back of the postcard since the cards were expensive and fragile to post, resulting in the postcards often accompanying letters.
This silk embroidered postcard from the Erskine Hospital collection is patriotic with the Allies flags (Italy, Czar, Great Britain, France, Belgium and Russia) and the blue letters R.F.A stand for the Royal Field Artillery to reminding the receiver of the united goal of the war. However the postcard maintains a sentimental aspect with beautifully embroidered pale blue flowers and the delicate card inside reads ‘with sincere good wishes for a happy future’. Sadly, there’s no written note on this one suggesting it accompanied a letter home.
Erskine began as the Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers. Records relating to its creation can be found amongst the papers of Sir William Macewen, held by The University of Glasgow Archives. More of Macewen’s papers are held by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.