The Sepia Saturday inspiration photo this week shows “the kitchen of the hospital train of Kaiserin Augusta Victoria and dates from the early years of the First World War”.
It brought to mind for me another photo from my great-aunt Gerda’s photo album:
Unfortunately this photo like most of the others in the album does not come with any notes to explain when and where it was taken, or who the people are. The original photo is small, 6x8 cm. Again it was not until I got it scanned and enlarged on my computer screen that I realized that the woman in the middle, holding the plate and spoon, must be Gerda herself. (I say “again”, because it’s been like that with several photos in her album.)
Compare it to the portrait of her in the sidebar of this blog, which she sent to her little sister, my grandmother, from Lyon in France in 1915 :
There are several postcards in her brother Gustaf’s postcard album that were sent by Gerda from France in 1914-18. I will get to them in due time as I continue to blog my way through the album. But here is a foretaste for Sepia Saturday:
6214. Guerre 1914.
E. FARGES, ÉDIT. – LYON
LYON – Les canons allemands place Bellecour
The Place Bellecour is a large square in the center of Lyon, France --- it is the largest clear square (i.e., without any patches of greenery, trees or any other kind of obstacles) in Europe /Wikipedia/
Franked: Lyon Brotteaux 11.16, 12-12-14 Rhone
Lyon 11 Dec 1914
I wish you a merry and happy Christmas! Did you get my letter, I haven’t had any news from home for a month. I hope I’ll hear from you soon. Lots of love from your sister Gerda. / These are cannons that the French have taken from the Germans, they are on display here.
Some six or seven months ago I got an email from a distant cousin of mine (grandson of one of Gerda’s older sisters). He tells me that after Gerda came back to Europe after her stay in Chicago (where she lived from 1902 and at least through 1910) she worked as lady’s maid/travel companion for (various) English ladies travelling in the British Commonwealth and to the US. When World War I broke out, Gerda was in France. The English lady she was working for at the time managed to get back home to England, but Gerda got stuck in France and remained there for years; judging by postcards sent to her brother it seems throughout the war.
Comparing Gerda’s portrait from 1915 with the photo of her in nurse’s uniform … It seems likely to me that it was at some point during the war in France that she also served as nurse. They seem very happy in that picture though… Were they celebrating victory? or just a private birthday party or something? I suppose that’s the kind of detail I’m not likely to be able to find out!