Although this church has been irreparably damaged by shellfire, traces of its former glory can still be seen in the ruined remains. Unfortunately, there is nothing in the original caption to suggest where on the Western Front this church stood. It is one of countless thousands of French and Belgian buildings that were devastated during the war. In France alone it is estimated that around 300,000 houses and over 1,000 churches were destroyed.
It is thought this photograph was taken by the British official photographer, John Warwick Brooke. During his time at the Western Front, between 1916 and 1918, Warwick Brooke captured much of the devastation caused to the towns and villages lining the Front.
[Original reads: ‘BRITISH OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH FROM THE WESTERN FRONT. A shell stricken church.’]
Showing 8 posts tagged Flanders
A number of troops are moving through a large cobbled square in Peronne. Piles of rubble line the edges of the street. All of the buildings have been damaged, most likely by shellfire. Most of the men are carrying weapons and packs, and one man carries a large earthenware vessel probably filled with water or some beverage.
The slang British term used here for German, ‘Hun’, gained popular usage after Kaiser Wilhelm II urged his troops to ‘behave like Huns’ to win the war. Peronne was one of a number of villages and towns captured in the Allied advance during the Somme Offensive of 1916.
[Original reads: ‘BRITISH OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH FROM THE WESTERN FRONT. THE FALL OF PERONNE. On the track of the Hun - Some of our troops entering town of Peronne.’]
Six uniformed men in overcoats sit on the edge of a trailer. Strapped to the trailer is a captured German aeroplane, painted with the number ‘8’. The wings have either been detached for transporting or damaged during combat. Apart from one man, who is looking at the camera, the rest of the men appear to be watching something that is happening off to the left. Frustratingly, what they are looking at will never now be known.
The derogatory term for a German, ‘Boche or ‘Bosch, originates from the French slang ‘alboche, which was two words ‘Allemand (German) and ‘caboche (pate, head) put together. Aeroplanes were used by both sides during the War for attack and defence and also for reconnaissance purposes.
[Original reads: ‘OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN ON THE FRONT IN FRANCE. A captured Boche plane on its way to one of our aviation depots.’]
This image, the work of the war photographer John Warwick Brooke, admirably illustrates many of the war experiences which are recounted in today’s society. Most action photographs, disseminated at the time for propaganda reasons, were deliberately staged, but this image lacks the cleanliness and order attributed to ‘fake’ situations.
Lance-Corporal Thomas Owen, recalls one of his shelling experiences, ‘The shells were dropping practically on the very brink of the trench. Now the worst had come. We were face down in the slime, with boot and finger and knee clutching and scraping for the veriest inch of cover.’
[Original reads: ‘A raiding party. An officer leads the way amidst the bursting of German shells.’]
This ‘all action’ photograph is thought to be the work of John Warwick Brooke. This image lacks the organisation and sanitisation of most other propaganda photographs, suggesting that it may not have been staged.
Captain S.J. Worsley, described his experience of raiding during the Delville Wood Campaign, ‘It was soon apparent that something very unpleasant was about to happen, so we stood to arms, groused a good deal, and waited. The waiting was always the hardest part of it all. The hours till 6 a.m. seemed terribly long.’
[Original reads: ‘OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN OF THE BRITISH WESTERN FRONT. A raiding party waiting for the word to go.’]
The two soldiers seen here have paused next to a sign for ‘Marten’s Farm.’ Tragically, the war has taken its toll on the farm. The ground is battle-scarred and laced with barbed wire, and the trees have been reduced to splinters. The two men sit amongst the rubble of what was once possibly a farm building.
It is estimated that in France alone approximately 8,000 square miles of farmland were laid to waste as a result of the war.
[Original reads: ‘OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH TAKEN ON THE BRITISH WESTERN FRONT. Once a farm - now just marked by a board.’]
The remains of a ruined church. Devastated by shellfire, all that remains is a figure of Christ. The photographer, most likely John Warwick Brooke, has chosen the statue as the central focus of the photograph, as seen through a shell hole. It is a carefully composed and intentionally thought-provoking, if not contrived, shot.
It is possible that this image would have been used as propaganda by the Government and Military, with the intention of offending people’s religious sensibilities. Associating the destruction of a place of worship with the German Army, it was hoped, would further fuel a collective hatred of the enemy.
[Original reads: ‘OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN ON THE BRITISH WESTERN FRONT. THE BATTLE OF BROODSEYNDE [Broodseinde]. Seen through a shell hole. What German guns did to Breelen church. Note figure of Christ intact.’]
The Divisional Commander is attending a sports day organised by the Black Watch. The events area has been cordoned off, and the Commander is sitting on the sidelines with the other spectators. Next to the Commander a large dog, the divisional pet known as ‘Rip’, is offering his paw.
During the war, many regiments and units adopted an animal as their pet or mascot. The chosen animal would often travel around with them.
[Original reads: ‘BRITISH OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH FROM THE WESTERN FRONT. Black Watch hold sports whilst resting. The Divisional Commander with the Divisional pet “Rip”.’]