One hundred years ago today Britain entered the First World War and over the next 4/5 years the conflict would affect virtually every family in the UK. My father, William George Shrimpton (in the pram), was born in the middle of the war, on 19th November 1916, and it appears that, 9 months later, his father still hadn’t seen him. Like many mature WW1 servicemen who were married with young families, his father missed the birth of at least one baby and his infants taking their first steps.
Photographs taken in Britain and posted overseas played a crucial role in keeping soldiers in touch with their families back home. The two postcard photographs above were taken by a professional photographer on the same day, 12th August 1917, according to a hand-written note on the back. Set, I presume, in the garden of my father’s parents’ North London family home, they portray my grandmother, Amy Shrimpton (nee Brooks), with her three children, Amy (b.1914), Doris (b.1915) and William/Bill - or ‘Sonny’ - (1916) as my father was called by his family.
A message was written on the landscape postcard and, sealed in an envelope, this photograph was sent to the Front to my grandfather, William George Shrimpton Snr (1883-1957). Intended to show him how his baby son and little daughters were progressing, it would also have assured him that he was in his family’s thoughts. My grandmother’s message suggests that her husband hadn’t been home on leave for some time and, in her brief message, she politely wishes him luck.
'Best of Doris and Sonny. What say you don't know him. They all say how much he is like you. Best of luck Dear, X Amy'
My grandmother (1882-1972) must have had a tough time on her own during the war, giving birth and looking after a baby and two toddlers, as well as running the house, but her story mirrors that of millions. Fortunately my grandfather survived the war, evidently brought the photograph(s) safely home with him and they were found just 3 years ago when my sister and were clearing out the attic and discovered memorabilia that we hadn’t seen before.