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Among the philatelic goodies that I've acquired recently is a Franchise Militaire postcard, scans of which are shown below.


The card would appear to be addressed to a Mr. Caubert, a pharmacist located at 120 Rue St. Charles, in Paris' 15th arrondissement.


Items of this kind are broadly termed "postal history" by stamp collectors, though technically (as I understand it) to be a really good exemplar of postal history, a piece of mail should be something more than something that passed through the post. No matter. This item was of interest to me.

As far as I can make out, the message on the back of the card reads as follows:
Du front, 10 mars 1915

Cher Monsieur,

Madame Guffroy doit aller vous voir ces jours-ci. Je suppose que vous êtes resté à vos bocaux.

Made Guffroy vous fera faire un appareil pour remplacer le tien. Comme convenir l'année dernière – faites le mieux – et pour le prix c'est moi qui vous paierai. Je suis toujours très satisfait du mien qui fonctionne même en temps de guerre. Et M. votre élève?

Bien cordialement à vous,
Guffroy Cycliste
36e Territorial par Verdun


From the front, March 10, 1915

Dear Sir,

Madame Guffroy will stop by to see you in the coming days. I guess you stayed with your jars.

Madame Guffroy will have you make an apparatus to replace yours. As agreed last year – do the best – and as for the price, I will pay it. I'm still very happy with yours, which that operates, even in time of war. And your pupil M.?

Sincerely,
Guffroy, Cyclist
36th Territorial [Infantry Regiment] via Verdun (my translation and, naturally, my errors)
I initially believed the year written in the card's date was 1911, which puzzled me, because whatever France was undertaking militarily in 1911 (in Sudan and Morocco, in Africa), I sort of doubted those actions would have been called a "war" by the writer. Then I noticed the curious shape of the numeral 5 on the front of the card, in the reference to the arrondissement of the recipient (15), and it became clear to me that the year was 1915. The card was written during World War I.

"I guess you stayed with your jars" is a pretty literal translation of what I read, and it sounds sort of weird. I get the feeling what was meant might be "I would guess that you're still in Paris with your pharmacy."

There remained a couple of words that I simply could not make out, which appear to have the same last few letters, but I cannot figure out what they might be. (See the comments at the LiveJournal version of this page for their clarification, although just what the apparatus referred to might have been remains a mystery.)

By the way, the Franchise Militaire was basically a system by which French servicemen could communicate by mail with their families back home for free, i.e., no postage stamps were required.

As it turns out, these days, 120 Rue St. Charles in Paris' 15th is a pastry shop. However, numbers 119 and 122 on that same street are pharmacies (as was the case with number 120 back in 1915), which leads me to wonder if there's any kind of connection there.

Anyway, that's as far as I got with this today.

Cheers...

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