I Do Wish You Were Nearer

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Bob Teevan

I Do Wish You Were Nearer


This card is not overtly funny. It is a topic card with subject matter not easily categorized. Is it a Glamour card, a Romance card, a Patriotic card or – as it dates from the time of the Great War – a World War One card?

Had the artist added a moniker I am sure it would be designated an artist signed card. Since there is only a touch of humor, it will be consigned to the Comic box.

The card, published by Inter-Art Company of London, was issued as part of a series named the Catchem series. It is card #6, although I can find no further references to this series.

It was published with the intention of international sales and as the title J’aimerais vous avoir tout pres is printed firstly in French I suspect it was marketed to troops serving in France.

A Google translation of the French title is, I would like to have you close. I suspect it is due to the idiosyncrasies of Google Translate, if I replace the period in the French with an exclamation point (as I did in error) it changes the translation to, I wish I had you close! I far prefer this as the title.

The sentiments of the woman are obvious, but why has the distance between the parties and lady’s comment given the gentleman such a look of alarm? We should accept that times have changed, but let’s not subscribe to the suggestion that in the Edwardian era young men and women were any less hot-blooded. I find the ‘reserve’ of the gentleman strange.

Looking again, it is more than reserve. It is, indeed, alarm – and he is uncertain as how to act. His body language suggests both defense (the rigid left arm) and flight (the right arm being ready to lever him to his feet), yet the advancing lady is presumably known to him and most likely they are already courting.

I think this card is intended to symbolize love existing at a distance (the man serving abroad and the woman at home) although the British reserve is such that it is easier to laugh at the gentleman’s discomfort then empathize with the woman’s advance. Is it a comic card?

The card is addressed to Miss M. L. Waddell at Chasefield, Denny, Stirlingshire; the short message is “got your letters alright” and the card is signed “Kind regards, James Gibson 132831.” There is then an address which has been scored through with this including the wording 46th Siege Battery, R.F.A., B.E.F. This has been replaced by the address ‘8th Corps, Siege Artillery Park, B.E.F.’

The Scottish Civil records are among the best in the world and provide greater amounts of information than those of other UK countries. They do have disadvantages for the online researcher in that they are expensive and require the researcher to have good ideas about what they seek. It is not possible to do online searches using only addresses, so I cannot tell you much more about Miss M. L. Waddell. There is an area of Denny known as Chasefield and there was a cottage nearby. The cottage appears to have gone, although other postcards in the same batch suggest that Miss M. L. Waddell remained single and at that property until 1930.

When researching I enjoy metaphorically bringing the parties to the postcards “back to life.” I had hoped to find a marriage between James Gibson and Miss Waddell although this did not happen and when I look again at the message there is nothing to suggest romance. No ‘Dearest’, no ‘Love’ and it is signed ‘Best regards.’ I suspect that Miss Waddell, and perhaps her friends, had selected troops serving abroad with whom they would exchange letters. I’m not sure Miss Waddell and Mr. Gibson ever met and when I discovered that James Gibson was from Dalmellington in Ayrshire (some 65 miles away) this strengthened my belief.

I mentioned that James Gibson added the number 132831 after his name. This was his service number. Sadly the fourth digit was difficult to decipher, which complicated my attempts to search by the correct number. This enabled me to find his World War One medal card and I was fortunate in locating his service record. So many of these records are missing and finding his was rewarding.

James Gibson was the son of Alexander Gibson and was born in 1892. He enlisted on 27th October 1915 at Ayr and moved to Grove Park in London at which time he was 24 years old and living with his father at 17 Main Street, Dalmellington.

He provided his occupation as Mechanic (Driver) at which time this 5-foot 9-inch young man was drafted into the Army Service Corps. The fact that he had a hammer toe on each foot was not thought to be a disability and after being inoculated for foreign service he sailed from Southampton on the S.S. Monas Queen on 10th November 1915. Disembarkation was the following day at Rouen in France, where he was assigned to the British Motor Transport Division.

Private Gibson was immediately transferred to the Royal Garrison Artillery and then to the 46th Siege Battery. The Siege Battery had been in France since 20th October 1915. The following suggests what role was played by a siege battery. “Siege Batteries RGA were equipped with heavy howitzers, sending large calibre high explosive shells in high trajectory, plunging fire. The usual armaments were 6-inch, 8-inch and 9.2-inch howitzers, although some had huge railway- or road-mounted 12-inch howitzers. As British artillery tactics developed, the siege batteries were most often employed in destroying enemy artillery, as well as putting destructive fire down on strongpoints, dumps, stores, roads, and railways behind enemy lines.”

The Army Service Corps has been described as unsung heroes of the British Army in the Great War. Although they were not combat troops its personnel supplied munitions and food to the front which involved driving on congested roads into forward areas under enemy observation and fire.

In May 1916 James Gibson was transferred to 8th Corps and as the address of both the 46th and the 8th are mentioned on the card, I believe the card can be dated to May 1916.

In November 1916 James Gibson commences the first of several transfers to and within the Motor Transport Corps. He is fortunate that he was neither wounded nor hospitalized although he did find time in September 1917 to be charged in the field with a “Failure to Comply” order. He had been ordered to attend a parade at 8 a.m. on August 22, 1917 but failed. He was punished with 14 days CC (I’m not sure what CC means).

[Editor’s note: CC is a common military abbreviation for “Confined to Camp.” The abbreviation was often followed by a dash and a number to show the days the punishment was in force.]

On August 3, 1918 he was again charged with the offence of “being in a café during prohibited hours.” He was admonished.

I believe he had two spells of leave although he may have only returned to the UK in May 1919 where he was discharged at Ripon on May 6, 1919.

As I continued a search on James Gibson from Dalmellington I came across the record of the Will of “GIBSON James of 17 Main Street, Dalmellington died 10th June 1956. Confirmation of Margaret McCallum Kirkland or Gibson, widow, and Alexander Gibson draughtsman.” As I had the names of both parties to the wedding I purchased the marriage certificate of James Gibson, 34, and Margaret McCallum Kirkland, 35. James was a motor hirer whilst his wife was a housekeeper. The couple were married on 24th June 1925 in Margaret’s hometown of Kirkmichael which is ten miles from Dalmellington.

There was no wedded bliss nor happy ending for Miss M. L. Waddell as far as James Gibson was concerned. However, it is pleasing to know that the soldier who sent the card survived the war, had a 31-year marriage, and produced at least one child – who he named Alexander, after his father.

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I admire Bob’s dedication to researching these articles, especially considering he occasionally purchases documents to assist in fleshing out the stories.

I love the expression on the guy’s face. Poor sap.

That was an intensely thorough investigation of the whole situation ! The only thing he didn’t quite satisfy me about was the real lady’s point of view. Not his fault as I’m surprised that he even purchased that other marriage certificate. Quite an interesting look at how things must have been in that war.
Anyone watch “The Waltons” ? Reruns there on our TV are about WWII lately.

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