Slang of the First World War
"Green Envelope"

19 January 1918 – “Left Marble Arch at 5:30 a.m. took underground to Victoria and got kit [from Maple Leaf Club]… Got the boat and arrived at Boulogne at 1:30 p.m… Wrote Lucy and posted a green envelope at the YMCA in Boulogne.” (Cane, It Made You Think of Home – The Haunting Journal of Deward Barnes, Canadian Expeditionary Force: 1916-1919, p. 150).

Did you know a “green envelope” was a specially coloured envelope, meant to indicate that its contents would not be censored by superior officers? The letter writer had to sign a declaration on the outside of the green envelope, swearing that the contents within were only personal or family matters. The premise was to allow soldiers to write home without concern of their private matters being read by their superiors within the battalion. However, “green envelopes” were issued sparingly and the letters were still subject to censorship further in the rear at base. (See Pegler, Soldier’s Songs and Slang of the Great War, p. 103 & Brophy & Partridge, Dictionary of Tommies’ Songs and Slang, 1914-18, p. 129).

A “Green Envelope”.
© Royal Mail Group Limited 2018.
© Royal Mail Group Limited 2018.