A WW1 postcard, found by a shop-owner in Leeds, has been reunited with a relative of its sender, thanks to a post on the ‘We Are Bedford’ Facebook group.
Rachel Procter found the postcard from Tom Folkes to his Bedford sweetheart, Flora on 11 November when she and her mother were sorting stock for her shop.
“Tom is clearly saying goodbye to Flora and to me, that simply means he was so certain of his death that he wanted her to know he loved her,” said Rachel, of Rachieclairebells vintage store in Morley Indoor Market, near Leeds.
“Sure enough, a cursory internet search brought up the death record for Lance Corporal Folkes, killed in action less than 18 months after he’d been conscripted.
“The picture on the front of the card was no doubt very risqué at the time as the title is ‘Hungry’ and there are two young lovers engaged in some improper behaviour behind an open parasol.
“This fact made me so deeply sad. It’s just another reminder of the sacrifices made by young men throughout the First World War. And the sacrifices made by the women who loved them.”
Keen to reunite the postcard with Tom or Flora’s descendants, she requested to join the ‘We Are Bedford’ Facebook group to help with the search.
“I posted the card with a plea to share to my business page, then I started searching for relevant groups who may have been able to help. I asked to join a group for Leamington Spa and a couple for Bedford including ‘We Are Bedford’.
Rachael posted on the group on Thursday (14 November) and was overwhelmed to find that it had been shared 129 times with 96 comments.
“I had no response from the Leamington Spa group, so wasn’t in any kind of hurry to post to the ‘We Are Bedford’ group. But, oh my gosh and wow.
“Within seconds of posting to that group, my post had been shared, several had liked and followed and then suddenly there was a huge influx of comments and sub comments from people doing their own research into both Flora and Tom.
“There were so many I actually found it difficult to read all of them.
“I was receiving message requests hourly from different people offering their own research theories and one girl, Lori, told me she is currently working on a project regarding historical postcards so the work she has done has been invaluable.
“Then on Thursday night I received a message request from a lady who had shared my post to a local Wootton page.
“She forwarded me a comment from a lady saying she was married to Tom’s great nephew. I was absolutely stunned.
“I asked her to please, please, please pass my phone number to whoever had commented and on Friday morning, my mobile rang with an unknown number.
“I usually send unknown numbers to voicemail, but I answered and a lady said, ‘It’s Kathie Hills, I’m married to Tom’s nephew’.
“Honestly, I have never been so utterly dumbstruck. We spoke at length for around a half hour. My mum wanted to speak to her too, so I gave my mum Kathie’s number and they spoke at length also!
“Kathie gave us the names of all the brothers and sisters and it seems that perhaps Tom’s certainty of his death came knowing his older brother had also been killed in action at Ypres in 1914 from what I have since been told.
Rachel and her mother had already made the decision that they wanted to return the card to a relative of either Tom or Flora, someone who was genuinely interested in their family history.
“We’ve definitely found that relative in Mrs. Hills,” said Rachel. “She was so touched when we said we were going to return the card to her.
“I am so pleased it’s finally going home so to speak. Whoever has had it in their possession has looked after it as it is in almost perfect condition, barring ageing in the colour.”
Rachel is spending the weekend taking sections of the We Are Bedford comments and research to accompany the postcard.
Poor health means that she can’t travel the distance to Bedford to hand the card personally to Kathie, but is hoping to arrange to meet up.
“I would absolutely love to meet Kathie face to face, but we have to work out the logistics.
“As it is, right now I am amazed, gobsmacked, in awe and so very, very humbled by the support and outpouring of love and respect I have received over the last couple of days from the residents of Bedford.
“It’s been an absolute rollercoaster of a couple of days. I honestly can’t convey how proud I am of these people for doing what they’ve done just for the sake of Tom and Flora.
I would love more than anything to find out the fate of Flora now.
“From something that made me so desperately sad, to this. I simply cannot wait for the card to go to it’s rightful heir.”