World War I

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TOP FIVE: WWI Pilots

MHM selects five of the most decorated and daring pilots of the Great War. 5: Grahame Donald Nationality: British Awards: Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Force Cross Putting his promising international rugby career on hold, Donald entered the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve in 1914 as a surgeon probationer. He is perhaps best known for his death-defying […]

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Assassination: Sarajevo, 28 June 1914

Most readers of The Times had never heard of Sarajevo in June 1914. The assassination of a visiting Austrian royal by a Balkan nationalist fanatic therefore passed with little comment at British breakfast tables at the end of that month. Yet the two pistol shots fired into the back of a limousine by Gavrilo Princip […]

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BEHIND THE IMAGE – Marching to the future

Belgian Carabiniers with dog-drawn heavy machine-gun, 1914 Marching toward the camera, and shot from a low angle, these Belgian Carabiniers are given a powerful sense of purpose by the photographer. Clean uniforms and neat formation say the soldiers have not come from battle. These are the early days of WWI and Belgium has been invaded […]

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THINKERS AT WAR – Wittgenstein

Cambridge philosopher Iain King discovers a First World War artilleryman with a revolutionary treatise in his backpack. Born in 1889 into the over-achieving family of Vienna’s richest industrial magnate, Ludwig Wittgenstein trained initially as an engineer. But he was soon drawn to the more fundamental issues on which mathematics and mechanics were based – issues […]

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BEHIND THE IMAGE – Crash Landing

Zeppelin IV lands on the parade ground of Luneville, April 1913 In traditional landscape format with the horizon a third of the way up the image, the Zeppelin bursts dynamically out of the frame from the bottom left edge to near the top right. The airship dominates the photograph as much as it dwarfs the […]

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BEHIND THE IMAGE – Deserted Trench

Abandoned British position captured by the Germans This cold and desolate image shows an abandoned British trench following a German attack, with mounted German infantry looming menacingly in the background. An inscription on the back of the photograph reads, Die Große Schlacht im Westen. Der Stab einer Infanterie-Division … ueberscreiten einer genommenen engl. Stellung. This […]

BEHIND THE IMAGE – Race to the Sea

The 16th (The Queen’s) Lancers (3rd Cavalry Brigade) advancing from the Marne to the Aisne, September 1914 Keith Robinson studies the aesthetics of this WWI photograph. At first this seems a generally quiet, almost static photograph dominated by the horizontals of earth and sky. But our eye is drawn from left to right as a […]

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BEHIND THE IMAGE – The Iron Duke

The Iron Duke leads a Battle Fleet, July 1914 This image exudes orderliness and power. Strong horizontals, emphasised by the landscape format, suggest stability and a sense of balance. Much like a piece of Classical architecture, this photograph conveys a sense of rightness to the order of things, depicting a reassuring world, kept stable by […]

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BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD – Calamity with a ‘K’

It was a bold tactical concept. With war looming in 1913, the Royal Navy requested a submarine with sufficient surface speed to operate alongside the fleet in combined actions. Conventional submarines were powered by a diesel motor on the surface, which also charged the batteries for use while submerged. In order to achieve the required […]

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