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Gale & Polden's "The British Army" ("History & Tradition") Postcard Series.


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Gale & Polden produced a series of postcards entitled ?The British Army?, authorised by the War Office, & usually referred to nowadays by their subtitle of ?History & Tradition?.

James Gale, a stationer & retired naval officer entered into a partnership with T. Ernest Polden during the 1860?s.In 1885 they opened a factory in Chatham, Kent.

In 1892 they formed a public company, & in 1893 they opened a branch at Wellington Street, Aldershot, Hampshire - given the size & importance of the Aldershot garrison to the army, it?s not surprising that it became the HQ of Gale & Polden as they established themselves in military publishing, producing a newspaper ?Military Mail?, books & postcards.

A branch was opened in the main Royal Naval port, Portsmouth, Hampshire, & an office in ?Postcard Row? ? Amen Corner, City of London.

Two leading illustrators, Ernest Ibbotson & John McNeil provided the illustrations for the ?History & Tradition? series.

The final version of pre-WWI Full Dress was in wear by the British army in 1908, & the figures illustrated this, usually two figures would be illustrated on the left side of the card, one in Full Dress, the other in Walking Out or Drill Order.

Also included on the card was a portrayal of the unit?s crest & text concerning those crests, unit history, nicknames & battle honours.

In the first printing, McNeil illustrated most of the infantry of the Line, & the Royal Army Medical Corps, Ibbotson illustrated the Cavalry, Guards, Royal Artillery, Royal Engineersr, & the other Corps & Departments. Most illustrations by Ibbotson portrayed background scenes of army life.

The series was in print 1908 ? 1918, many of McNeil?s Infantry of the Line were repainted by Ibbotson, & the King?s Own Royal Regiment was illustrated by Edgar A. Holloway.

Later cards showed the uniforms of 1913, the Line Infantry wearing shoulder straps in their facing colours, which in the case of some regiments were their pre-1881 facing colours, authorised to replace the 1881 introduction of standardised facing colours such as white for English & Welsh regiments etc.

The first printings of the series bore a ?G & P? trademark on their otherwise plain reverse sides, later printings had serial numbers 1 ? 117 in the lower left corner, & different trademarks were used in different locations, on successive printings.

Most illustrations are signed & dated between 1908-1909, some just signatures, & some neither.

The card of the Royal Flying Corps was produced in 1913, & a number of yeomanry regiments about 1914, numbered 1317-1325, with some unnumbered, & some of these yeomanry cards could only be obtained from the regiments themselves.

A Hampshire Yeomanry card exists, although not appearing in any of the company?s lists.

During WWI some new cards were added, including the Welsh Guards, raised in 1915 & numbered in some of the company?s lists as 118, which is also the number of the RFC card in some lists. The Welsh Guards card shows inaccuracies in the uniform as the card was produced n 1915 when Full Dress with bearskin was to be worn only by the band in London Garrison & prior to the details of their uniform having been confirmed.

Re-printings of some regiments showed figures in the khaki Service Dress of WWI, a few cards showed high ranking army personalities such as Field Marshal HM King George V.

Some cards were also printed with rates of pay & terms of service, announcements of parades & regimental anniversaries, Old Comrades dinners etc. as the text.

The illustrations were initially produced as water colours on card & sent to the units concerned for any corrections necessary, being checked usually by the adjutant or Regimental Sergeant Major, so uniform detail should be very accurate, an exception being the Welsh Guards for reasons mentioned above.

In July 1918 fire at the Wellington Works destroyed most of the series records & colour blocks, it?s not possible now to be sure of exactly how many cards & variations were produced.

Cards of the Brigade of Guards, Royal Marines, Field Marshal HM King George V, FM Lord Kitchener & FM Sir John French were illustrated by Ibbotson, Royal Artillery & Departments & Corps by Ibbotson, other than the first card of the RAMC which was by McNeil, Infantry of the Line by McNeil & Ibbotson, other than the KORR which was by Holloway, & Mounted Infantry were by McNeil.

To follow ? a list of known cards, compiled 1970?s 1980?s by Thomas McGuirl

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The Black Watch, illustrated by J. McNeil, no serial number on this card of which only one type was produced.

The illustration of the cap badge shows the Victorian Crown & bears "Lacessit" as part of the motto, rather than the "Lacesset" sometimes found on the regiments badges.

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The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, illustrated by J. McNeil & bearing serial number "77" on the reverse, only one version of this card was produced.

Bearing a halfpenny stamp of King George V, this example was posted from the UK to an address in St. Leonards, North Sydney, Australia.

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  • 8 months later...

Just me being lazy - it's a few hours work to type up the list - but in the meantime I've found a few more of these cards I had tucked away.

The Hampshire Regiment, illustrated by J McNeill, 1907, no. "71", bottom rear left

Edited by leigh kitchen
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The Grenadier Guards, illustrated by Ernest Ibbotson, 1909, serial number "32", bottom left of reverse.

Posted from Caterham, Surrey, 15/7/19 to Mr H. Pendry, of Hornsey, London W8, from his son Arthur - a Grenadier Guardsman at the Guards Depot at Caterham?

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The East Surrey Regiment, illustrated by Ernest Ibbotson, no serial number.

An "updated" card of the regiment in Service Dress

I can't make out the post mark, but it's sent 19/7/18 from "Harry" to Miss D Slater of Derby - Harry's complaing to Dorothy that he's not very well as he was innoculated that morning.

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