I Wonder If She’s Wearing My Badge

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Bob Teevan

I Wonder If She’s
Wearing My Badge

This card is a World War One comic card.

Both the image of a young boy dressed in a British Army uniform and the handwritten message are from the war era. As you see the boy is on boxes of supplies marked by the War Department. I don’t believe he is in a dangerous area such as the front line as the fence – albeit one with barbed wire – suggests to me that he is in the countryside and at a camp prior to going abroad.

The caption, “I wonder if she wears my badge ‘cause she loves me, or only because it looks pretty!” sums up the feelings of many young men who want to begin a relationship with a young lady. The artist Fred Spurgin emphasizes the doubt in this young man by enlarging the eyes of the subject and his use of orange and brown nicely captures the sentiment.

The card was mailed in Belfast, Ireland, on June 13, 1917, and is addressed to Master L Ryder at 30 King Gardens, Plymouth, England. The brief message reads “You will tell by this that there was no subs about on the way over. Hope you are behaving yourself & are still a good boy. Uncle C.” I like cards with references to contemporary issues or events and this card refers to submarine warfare and suggests that the writer has just crossed the Atlantic Ocean. I say that as Ireland was frequently a first port-o-call for vessels long at sea.

It would be great if I could tell you who Master L. Ryder and Uncle C were but have been unable to find individuals in the records that can positively be identified as this pair. The reference to Master L. suggests youth and I suspect that the addressee was born between 1911 (the most recent census available) and June 1917 (the date of the postmark). I can suggest this with a strong level of certainty as in the 1911 census, the family living at 30 King Gardens, Plymouth comprised James Robert Ryder, 59, a light porter; Matilda, 62, his wife, and three children. They are Edwin Campbell Ryder, 29, a naval seaman; Frederick James Ryder, 27, a naval seaman; and Ada Elizabeth Ryder, 21, a draper’s assistant. There is no Master L.

At this stage I wasn’t certain what a Light Porter was.

As I was keen to find Master L. and Uncle C. I decided to look at earlier records to find the children not at home in 1911, and to look for marriages of any child. By doing so I hoped to find one of the children with a son who had a name beginning with an ‘L.’

The family was together in 1891 when James Robert Ryder, 39, was a commission boatman for His Majesty’s Coastguard, and lived in a Cornwall Coast Guard Station. Those not listed in 1911 were George H. Ryder, 10, and Ernest W. Ryder, 5. I looked for marriages for all yet found no Master L. It may be needed to go back another generation to find a brother of James Robert Ryder who may be Uncle C. 

The story of World War One submarine warfare is fascinating, but too complex for here. Suffice it to know, war supply tonnage in the millions shipped was sunk in just a matter of months, hundreds of naval, merchant and fishing vessels were destroyed and the loss of life was staggering.

The Ryder family of Plymouth, like many others in the area were linked to the sea. I have no idea what type of vessel Uncle C. was on although with over 5,700 vessels destroyed by submarines during the war, it may be presumed that every crossing was filled with anxious moments.

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I came to the conclusion that ‘Light Porter’ is a reference to a Lighter (a flat-bottomed boat). I am no closer to finding out who Uncle C. was although on a hunch I tried the random name of ‘Lawrence’ Ryder and was immediately rewarded with the birth of Lawrence Edwin George Ryder who was baptised on 25th August 1912. He was the son of Edwin Campbell Ryder and Bertha Ryder (nee Gulliver). I had found ‘Master L’! Edwin Campbell Ryder and Bertha Gulliver were married in 1911 and while in 2020 I had followed Edwin through to the 1939 Register… Read more »

Hope you find a card that helps you solve the mystery of who “Uncle C” was, Bob!

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