Currently viewing the category: "World War I"

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In a moment of levity at the end of WWI, these sailors from America and the U.K. and France got together for a bit, and turned their little doggie mascot into a small attraction of sorts, entertaining themselves and the small curious crowd surrounding tthem. The photograph was made anonymously by the Western Newspaper Union and is stamped "British Official Photograph", and published on 10 October 1918.

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Which is a delightful detail from this:

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And this intriguing woman, who appears in the upper right corner:

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JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post [Part of the series of World War I Photographs]

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This image shows one of the happy moments during the First World War–rather, a happy moment right before the end of the war, just a few days after the Armistice (11-11-1918, on the 11th minute of the 11th hour). The image shows the British army being welcomed into the city of Lille on October 17, 1918–the city had been occupied by the Germans right at the beginning of the war in the middle of October, 1914, and was severely punished for a deception perpetrated in its defense, with the German army burning down an entire section of the ancient city in revenge.

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The picture was published on 15 November 1918, a few days after the end of the war. In the detail of this photo is revealed a small and unexpected kindness:

WWI Brit Soldier reception002

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I recall, I think, that this was the largest photograph of war printed during World War I, looking to be something on the order of 8×16 feet or so. This photo of the photo was printed by Underwood & Underwood, and stamped "British Official Photograph", printed sometime in 1918. It seems that this is an actual battle scene, which was a very uncommon thing among war photographs for the Great War–more so for this group of photographs(News Photo Service) produced by pool photographers for equal distribution among subscribing newspapers and periodicals. Actual combat photos distributed by the News Photo Service agencies were not a high priority, unless they depicted routed or retreating or being-defeated Germans–it was not a popularly-disributed subject, mainly for propagandist purposes. (The original photo is available for purchase here.)

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A bit of calm, or at least a bit of a place that could not be reached by shells or bullets, was found bellow ground in the cellars of Douaumont Fort, in Verdun. These images were made at the very end of 1916, and published in The Illustrated London News for 13 January 1917. These images show another side of that battle, of soldiers meeting for religious services and for medical attention in the cellars ("…the subterranean, vaulted, stone-built casements, deep underground beyond possibility of penetration by the heaviest bomb") of one of the barrier-forts surrounding Verdun, Douaumont.

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Blogsept_2_dead478 The Care of the Dead, published by Eyre and Spottiswoode in London in 1916, is a quiet, spare pamphlet, on what was happening to the fallen British soldier in France and Belgium. It is a big topic–physically the little paper-wrapper work seems barely strong enough to support the implications and heaviness of its title–and I'm sure the issue would've been the most important questions in the minds of the families of the hundreds of thousands of dead British soldiers*–the pamphlet really does seem to be feather-light under the solidity of its title.

Reading though this work gave me an insight into the depth of what millions of war dead means–and an insight I think that I've never had before. The anonymous author writes about touring the battlefields of France in 1915 and 1916, driving in an automobile, "the eye of the traveler along the roads is struck by many low crosses sticking out o the ground–in the fields, in cottage gardens, in corners of farm yards and orchards, even on roadside strips of grass."

Where the ground has changed hands a good deal in the course of a war, you may see, within a few hundred yards of each other, the gabled and eaved cross of the Germans, with "Hier ruht in Gott" and a name painted in white on a dark ground, the beaded wire wreath of the French, with its "Requiescat" or "Mort pour la France: and the plain-lined cross of the English, white or brown or just the unpainted wood, "In loving memory" of officers or men…" Now I'm sure I read any number of accounts of the views of battlefields from commanders' line and soldiers' views and the like; but I don't think I've had the perspective of an officer driving around a no-longer-a-contested-battlefield in a car and being struck by the appearance of the little white crosses, well, everywhere. I have a very crisp imagined image in my head, now, with this 92-year-old war memory described from the driver's seat of a car.

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Looking at these pictures, the first thought about what silent bells sound like is pathetic nothingness, and that apart from any secular importance or significance. But when the Russians pulled out of Poland they took the bells of the churches with them, keeping them from the advancing German army, keeping them so that the Germans didn’t melt them down to use in munitions. The bells disappeared too from many Russian cities, pulled back deeper inside Mother Russia, far from the advancing army.

Bells 578[Source, above and next three images, from the Illustrated London News, 4 October 1915.]

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Between 1914 and 1918 when many of the nations of the world were at war, Poland as a nation did not exist, though its nationalities and spirit and idea certainly did; and though it didn’t exist as a country on the map Poland was the home to numerous battles of the Eastern Front, fought on Polish soil. Having been partitioned by the Germans, Russians and Austro-Hungarians, and having Germany and Austria-Hungary pitted against the Russia during the war meant particular hardships and brutalities as the Central Powers and Axis fought for land and the heart of minds of the people who lived on it.

This ad, which appeared in the Illustrated London News for 2 October 1915, was a display of combined sympathy and support for the Polish people in a particularly bad year, when it was occupied by Germany and retreated through by the once-friendly-notion of Russia (the retreat costing the country a lot in the process).

The advertisement–a public service announcement–was about 10.5 inches by 5 inches, and appeared a number of times in the magazine during 1915 and 1916. The ads seemed to disappear after that, though the usually-accompaniment of “Holricks Malted Milk” ads pressed on, unabated.

JF Ptak Science Books Post 1822

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A fascinating aspect in modern technology and warfare is the reliance upon pigeons and dogs–and their achievements–for war services. Evidently several hundred thousand pigeons were used to relay messages between divisional headquarters and battlefield positions and such during WWI, with something like 90% of the messages being delivered successfully–a remarkable achievement, since it was not uncommon for the pigeons to fly dozens of miles to perform their task. The services worked so well in fact that the American carrier pigeon service training facility for the army was not closed until 1957.

Dogs were used as guards and ambulance litter carriers, but it seems they were mostly used for communication purposes, taking messages back and forth through the masses and intricacies of trenches.

The image below comes from The Illustrated London News for 2 October 1915:

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Osman, Lt. Col. A.H., Pigeons in the Great War: A Complete History of the Carrier Pigeon Service during the Great War, 1914 to 1918 (London, 1928) Read more at Suite101. [All images below are available for purchase from our blog bookstore, here.]

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I've written a number of times on this blog about WWI images, many of which are in my own collection of News Service Photo Group images, like the one just below, which can be found here. Many of them are remarkable, astonishing even–especially those relating to soldiers whose war has ended, finding them as prisoners of war. At least they weren't dead, like the dozens of millions of other soldiers.

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(Original photograph available at our blog bookstore here.)

I uncovered another of these images, tonight, long misplaced.

WOrld War I Prisoners547[Image available from our blog bookstore, here.]

There were over 8 million soldiers taken prisoner during WWI, that in addition to the 21 million who were wounded and the 9.7 million killed: 38 million. Plus 6.8 million civilians who were killed: 45 million. And the numbers for civilians wounded are just, well, not reliable, as they were not really collected, or collectible. At the end of it all, there were probably between 50 to 75 million soldiers and civilians killed or wounded or taken captive during the war…not including civilians who were killed by the hardships or starvation caused by the conflict. Big, big numbers.

Some of these soldiers were taken in entire armies, surrenders of hundreds of thousands; and some came in pairs, or singles, as in the photo above. There are two captured Germans here, the two men in the middle, who are flanked by a British soldier and (I think) a Canadian officer, with two locals in the background. The short man front-and-center was paraded no doubt for his propaganda value–certainly not five feet tall, slender, with a tiny, not-average face. The Tommy is certainly enjoying the situation, while the officer maintains composure.

I'm sure the photo could've been made by any photographer for any army at any time.

The photograph was made in 1918, a few months before the end of the war, but there was still fighting to be done, and the value of showing the the British and Allied publics the "face" of a now-wilting enemy must have been considerable. There was considerable control and tightness over the sort of images allowed to be produced and published coming from the front line, photographs being made by a "pool" of news photographers the contents of which were closely evaluated by military censors before being allowed to circulate to newspapers and magazines.

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We've all heard of the saying, "playing the money card" but until this morning I've never actually see it, so far as I know. While looking for WWI aerial combat games in the patent records I stumbled across "Capture the Kaiser", a card game created by Charles Hopkins (which was entered into the register at the Patent Office in November 1917 and received the patent less than three weeks after the end of the War)–it was a game of pursuit/capture using 45 cards in which players used the various strengths of nations (airplanes, submarines, battleships) to secure the outcome. It seems pretty much like a standard game of "War" with a few exceptions, one of which was the "finance card". It was one of the strongest cards in the deck, or so it seems, rivaling that of another interesting bit, the "fate card". In any event, it was interesting to see the root of power portrayed so in a card game for kids.

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