Letter to a wartime pen pal
Repository: Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid, Spain
Contributor: Ediciones Patrióticas
Fond or Collection
Repository and Location
Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid, Spain.
Date Created: 1937
Extent: 1 item
Geographic Region: Cádiz, Spain
The practice of women on the home front writing letters and sending gifts to soldiers at the front they did not know started in France early in World War I. It appeared in Spain in the 1920s in the context of the Moroccan War and re-emerged quickly during the Civil War. The figure of the madrina de guerra provided an opportunity for women on both home fronts to contribute to the war effort in a way that respected established canons of female behaviour. There were Republican pen pals as early as September 1936. Some women had more than one “godson;”one Nationalist woman had thirty. As well as letters, the women often sent gifts such as tobacco, sweaters, woolen socks, food, reading material and, in the Nationalist zone, religious medallions. Some Republican pen pals were even able to visit their soldiers at the front, where they washed and cooked for them.
Some of these connections came through friends or relatives but most were between complete strangers. Francoist Soldiers could use templates from guidebooks like Model Letters for Seeking a Wartime Pen Pal published in Cádiz in 1937 and sold for the very low price of 30 cents, approximately €0.70 today. “Most distinguished miss. The purpose of this letter is to request you kindly become my wartime godmother. For a soldier on campaign, a wartime pen pal is like a guardian angel. To know one is in the thoughts of a beautiful woman gives such happiness and optimism during the most difficult moments. That is why I am full of hope that you will understand my excitement at this happiness I hope you will deign to grant me. Carrying your photograph next to my heart, I will feel more capable than ever of enduring the most difficult situations.” At the bottom came the obligatory formula “Triumphal Year xx. Arise Spain!” The book also contained models of replies to such requests, as well as of thank you letters for having accepted a request and sending gifts. These relationships could also lead to romance. That the books of model letters included declarations of love on the part of soldiers and responses to such declarations from women suggests that this was foreseen and even desired.
Not all soldiers used such elaborate letters to find their pen pals. Many placed short announcements in newspapers. Often, a number of soldiers in the same unit shared an announcement. For example, the March 4, 1937 issue of the Gaceta de Tenerife had four individual and three group requests. They could not be more basic. One of the individual announcements read simply, “José Contreras of the First Company, Fourth Battalion, Sixth Granada Infantry Regiment stationed in Getafe, Madrid, seeks a wartime pen pal.” One of the group announcements came from nine men “all sailors on board the glorious battleship España. Ferrol.” Some Francoist officers even had advertisements placed in a newspaper in Tokyo, and Japanese women responded with letters for their soldiers.