Letters of the First World War: a message from the King

The letter sent to Thomas Maher from Buckingham Palace in 1918. Image  © IWM / Frank Murphy.

The letter sent to Thomas Maher from Buckingham Palace in 1918. Image © IWM / Frank Murphy.

Today on our series showcasing fascinating and moving letters members of the public have added to Lives of the First World War, a letter from Buckingham Palace.

Private Thomas Maher joined up with the Manchester Regiment in 1914, as a young man only just entering his twenties who had been working as a collier. He was discharged in 1915 due to ill health, but went on to rejoin the army with the Cheshire Regiment. He ended the war with the Machine Gun Corps and went on to live for over 60 more years.

At some point, although not many details are known about it, he must have been taken prisoner, because in 1918 he received this letter from King George V congratulating him on his release, along with his “patience and courage”.

Letter from Buckingham Palace, 1918

“The Queen joins me in welcoming you on your release from the miseries & hardships, which you have endured with so much patience & courage.

We are thankful that this longed for day has arrived

During these many months of trial, the early rescue of our gallant officers & men from the cruelties of their captivity has been uppermost in our thoughts.

We are thankful that this longed for day has arrived, & that back in the old Country you will be able once more to enjoy the happiness of a home & to see good days among those who anxiously look for your  return.

George R.I.”

How common were these letters?

This letter is considered one of the first mass communications from the British Royal Family. Thousands of British and Commonwealth soldiers who were recorded as having been Prisoners of War during the First World War received it.

This was made possible by lithography printing techniques, which meant the letter could be reproduced many times. Most were sent in printed envelopes which read “A Message To You From His Majesty King George V”.

Do you have any First World War letters?

Many thanks to Thomas Maher’s family for sharing these fascinating letters on his Life Story.

Who are you remembering? Have you added any letters to Lives of the First World War?

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