Field postcard

This hook provides an example of how government censorship during the First World War limited what soldiers could say and what the general public could know.

Template postcard for sending a message from soldiers on active service.

Template postcard for sending a message from soldiers on active service, ca. 1914–1918. The State Library of Victoria. P.365/PC.2


Soldiers often used postcards like this to send a quick message home. Instead of writing a letter, they would choose the most fitting statement from each option and cross out the rest. During the war, censors read all letters to ensure that they included nothing about what the soldiers were doing or what their precise location was. This was to prevent important information being revealed if the letters fell into the wrong hands. Another reason for censorship was to prevent information in the letters from worrying families at home. Postcards like this allowed censors to approve correspondence more quickly.

Sometimes soldiers self-censored their postcards and letters because they didn’t want people at home to know what they were experiencing or because it was simply too hard to express. Their brief postcards and letters home reassured loved ones that they were still alive and that their letters and parcels were reaching them.

Possible discussion questions

  • How do you think this level of censorship impacted on the senders and recipients of these field postcards?
  • What advantages and disadvantages (at an individual and national level) could there have been if the soldiers had been given the freedom to write whatever they wanted in their letters home?
  • What were the consequences for soldiers who disclosed sensitive information in their letters home?
  • What role, if any, should censorship play in New Zealand during times of peace?
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