World War I


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]



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 […]


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 […]



Larry Collins looks at the function of theatre entertainment during the First World War and its role as unofficial recruiter, propagandist, and fund-raiser. The usual location for entertainments was at depots and rest camps in the rear, but there was always the YMCA canteen hut situated a short distance behind the front-line trenches. At one […]


YOUR MH – ‘A model of what a war hospital under canvas should be’

Michael MacCallan’s grandfather Arthur was an ophthalmic surgeon. He helped convert Travelling Ophthalmic Hospitals into WWI military hospitals for the support of the sick and wounded of the Suez, Gallipoli, and Salonica campaigns. This is his story. In 1903, when Arthur MacCallan (1872-1955) had just finished his residency at Moorfields, an oculist in Egypt asked […]

German corpse at Beaumont Hamel on the Somme on the Western Front, France

YOUR MH – the case of Albert Rickman

Albert Rickman was born in Milford-on-Sea and lived with his parents, Charles and Anne Rickman, at 4 Carrington Terrace. On Friday 15 September 1916, at the age of 27, he was executed following a court martial for desertion. Retired army officer and local resident John Cockram investigates the circumstances surrounding his death. In August 1914 […]

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