Images from the Western Front

With the lack of actual photographs of the Western Front after 1914 due to bans on photography by British soldiers, I feel very fortunate to have been shown this soldier’s sketchbook. He was there in 1917-18, apparently with the Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery, but some of the images are very much like my memories. The sketchbook is here:

Some images that stand out:

Searchlights and star flares like the ones I remember. A bit of searching confirms that these searchlights were not just used to spot aircraft, but also to create artificial moonlight (a practice that pre-dated WWI).

Moving by moonlight; red glow in the distance from fires (the only directional light source seems to be the moon; the red light is far more diffuse). I remember terrifying night patrols when that diffuse red glow silhouetted against the skeleton trees was the only light.

Playing poker in a dugout with an improvised table. We used a cable spool but here they have a box that contained some sort of pork product.

An image fittingly titled “Not Pictured in the Daily Papers.”  A daily sight nonetheless.

This one actually got a chuckle from me. A British private with a labour company salutes a Belgian policeman, mistaking him for a general in his archaic uniform.

Another comic piece. While Romeo says “Arise, fair moon,” Tommy, exposed in the stark moonlight, shouts “Go in you blinkin’ turnip!”

Hop Picking in Flanders- a comical take on the practice of removing lice from one’s clothes. I must have been familiar with this analogy.

This is actually at St. Omer, but is a pretty good approximation for how Ypres looked in Spring 1915.

No Man’s Land. A very stark image that reminds me a great deal of some of the quieter sectors.


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