Pictures of World War I

Each Worth 1000 Words…
Photographer Frank Hurley

The Battle of the Menin Road

Frank Hurley took several photographs of the Menin Road battle (September 20th to 25th).  Here you see injured troops on the side of the road.  The Battle of the Menin Road was a tit-for-tat affair starting with a British attack on German positions that led to several effective German counter attacks.  The British casualties during this 5 day period were over 20,000.


Looking Out From the Entrance of a Captured Pill-Box on to the Shell Ravaged Battlefield

Yet another “combined negatives” trademark photograph of Australian serviceman and photographer Frank Hurley.  The solder is not really looking out on the battlefield from the Pill-Box (ie. reinforced guard post).  There are several image negatives combined on top of one another to create this scene out of several actual photographed events.  While it may be inauthentic and controversial, the image in its artistry at least highlights the horror of war.


The Dawn of Passchendaele

The heavy casualty-laden Battle of Passchendaele was one of the more famous battle of World War 1 which took place near Ypres in Flanders, Belgium.   In this photograph (which is another “combined negative photo – meaning two or more negatives from different pictures were combined to “create” this image), the sky appears to magnificently part enough for rays of light to shine through in an almost biblical image against the scarred battleground and casualties of war.



Death the Reaper

Death The Reaper is another “combined negatives” photograph by Frank Hurley.  Basically, several negatives are combined to transpose two or more separate photographs and scenes atop one another to create a new image.  In this case, the young dead soldier and the explosion in the background are separate events and images created for the artistry of the photograph.


An Australian Light Horseman in Palestine Viewing the Promised Land

The Australian Light Horsemen were mounted infantry and cavalry soldiers.  They were most famously involved in the Battle of Gallipoli and their victorious Battle of Beersheba in modern day Israel.  The 1987  film starring a young Mel Gibson, The Lighthorsemen dramatizes the life of the Australian Light horse regiment and infantry.  The Lighthorse were mounted infantry rather than cavalry.  The difference being that the former used horses for transport and rarely fought on horseback unlike the latter.


Registering up a battery of Australian Heavies

Another picture of the clandestine Australian infantry.  Australian heavy artillery guns were know as “heavies”.  These were loud and massive artillery guns that caused quite a bit of destruction.


Machines Returning To The Hangars

Australian Flying corps with planes in the hangar and in the air is captured beautifully in this original Frank Hurley photograph.  The sheer number of pilots and planes that saw combat in the most basic flying craft is astounding.



A Road on the Battlefield, Westhoek

Frank Hurley took several pictures of the Westhoek ridge area which was part of the Flanders Offensive.  Major battle was fought here and the Germans endured relentless shelling by the Allies.  Tired solders are seen marching along a Westhoek road.


Battle Scarred Sentinels

This is another famous Frank Hurley photograph that also was ‘constructed’ via combined negatives.  That is, this scene is not actually a true depiction but rather a combination of several scenes and developed as one image.  Still, each ‘negative’ was a true photograph and this combined scene is strikingly dramatic.


Shrapnel Bursting Amongst Reconnoitering Planes

Make no mistake, these Aussie airplanes are under enemy attack.  They are on a reconnoitering mission.  Reconnoitering is another word for a fact-finding, exploratory mission.  It’s not really surveillance, but more scouting out enemy positions, sizes, and deployment.


The ruins of the Cloth Hall, the Cathedral and Bishop’s Palace, Ypres

When we use the term war zone in a modern context, it still pales in comparison to the war zone known as Ypres.  The city and salient were literally levelled to the ground.  The remaining ruins look like relics of a lost civilization.


Australian Pioneers Salving a 4.5 Howitzer

A 4.5 inch Howitzer was a field artillery gun that was commonly used in the First World War.  To give you an idea of just how hard these men are working in the picture, a gun of this type weighs just over 3000 pounds.  Moving it on even, flat, paved land would be a challenge – but in this muddy mess, it’s near impossible.


Sniping Enemy Planes With a Lewis Gun

One of the most effective and widely used anti-aircraft weapons during the First World War was the Lewis Automatic Machine Gun.  It was also used on airplanes firing at ground targets.   Developed in the US but favored by the British, Belgian, and Russian armies, the Lewis Gun was light weight and could fire 500 rounds per minute.  In this picture, an Australian soldier is aiming the gun while another hold what looks like a 47 round magazine as opposed to the 97 round.



A Street In Ypres

Ypres was of course the famous site of several key World War I battles.  The scale of destruction endured by this Belgian municipality is unimaginable.  What’s evident in the Frank Hurley photograph is just how intense and sustained the battles were between the Allied forces and Germany.



A Stretcher Case

Here’s a photograph by Frank Hurley showing an injured soldier being attended to.  The tag on the soldier indicates that he’s been processed by someone with medical authority already.  Because his hand is over his eyes, and the soldier (presumably comrade) looking on has his gas mask bag strung in a ready position around his neck suggests the wounded soldier may have suffered the effects of gas in addition to the leg injury the other medical officer is working on.




Surrounded By Invisible Death

Gas was originally developed and used effectively by the Germans against the Allies.  However, as the War progressed, the Allies became experts at gas weapons and mastered it’s delivery and effectiveness in battle.  As a result German casualties to gas vastly outnumbered the Allies.  In this image, there may be gas present or a warning of German gas attack.  One of the soldiers is seen covering his ear suggesting the massive gun was being fired.


A Tired Battalion Marching Out Of Line

Another Frank Hurley photo showing a Battalion moving along a road.  Usually they would be marching single file or in line, but as the photographer rightly pointed out, they are in a casual gait looking battle-weary.




Scene In The Trenches

This is a great Trench scene photograph by Frank Hurley.   Obviously, the soldiers aren’t in any immediate danger as they are well within sights of a German sniper.  The scene may have been posed or staged deliberately as there is another soldier walking above ground in a casual manner in the background.  What’s often missed in this photograph are the heads of the soldiers further along peeking above the Trench.  Nearly all have their weapons in an almost ready position.


Aerial photograph – Turkish defences near the road to Jerusalem

Frank Hurley took some stunning aerial pictures during World War 1.  This particular picture shows the road into Jerusalem.  If you look closely, you can make out convoys on the road.  The British eventually captured enemy territory in the Battle of Jerusalem in 1917 after two campaigns.  It was considered a great moral victory at the time and lifted Allied spirits.

Unloading 15 Inch Howitzer Shells

 When considering the magnitude of World War 1, one cannot help but marvel at how soldiers were able to transport large, heavy, and cumbersome munitions and rearmaments through thick dense mud and bog by horse carriage and buggies.  The 15 inch shells were heavy and due to their short range were only used for a short time before being replaced with 12  inch and older 9.2 inch shells.




Voormezeele was a village  in the Ypres Salient which was held by the British until the last German Spring Push (April 1918).  It was retaken by the Americans in August of the same year.  This Frank Hurley photograph show just how devasted the town became.    At top left you can still see smoldering wreckage.




A Windy Outpost on Westhoek Ridge

Two soldiers are huddled in a makeshift shelter on Westhoek Ridge.  The ridge was captured by the British in 1917 in the early days of the Flanders Offensive.  Eventually, this  area was a staging ground for an attack heading eastwards to Polygon Wood.  During the course of 10 days, three thousand guns and 4,250,000 shells were poured on the Germans.  It was said that the sound of explosions could be heard 190 km away in London.




The Battle of Zonnebeeke

This is another Frank Hurley composite.  That is to say this picture is actually two or more picture negatives combined.  This scene as it appears never occurred or at least not all at once.  The plane, soldiers, and explosions are likely separate pictures all layered atop one another to create this image.  Hurley is a controversial figure in presenting his photographs as an artistic interpretation through the combined negatives.  Note that only a small handful of his photographs are combined negatives.


The Famous Leaning Madonna and Child in Albert

The French city of Albert was held by the Allies from September 1914.  It was a strategic supply point in the famous 1916 Battle of the Somme.  However, forced to retreat in 1918, the British destroyed the famous, leaning, ‘Virgin and child’ statue on the tower of the basilica of Notre Dame be Brebières.  They obliterated the whole church in belief that it could  be used as a German observation post.  Interestingly, the English propaganda at the time suggested the Germans needlessly destroyed it.