The War. Documents from the Photographic Division of the Army, Fascicle I: A Soldier’s Life

Description

In 1916, the Photographic Division of the Army in the French Ministry of War published collections of photographs documenting all aspects of French involvement in World War I. The collections were grouped by theme and published in 20 separate installments, or fascicles. These fascicles in turn were published in two larger volumes. Each fascicle opens with a brief introduction in French. The photographs are captioned in French, with accompanying tables of translation providing versions of the captions in English, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. The images were taken by army photographers whose identities were not recorded. The entire series was edited by Victor-Eugène Ardouin-Dumazet (1852–1940), a French journalist who is best known as the editor, between 1893 and 1907, of Voyage en France, a collection of some 70 volumes, intended as tourist guides but that also documented in minute detail the economic order of urban and rural France in this period. 1916 was a crucial year for France during World War I, marked by the two great battles fought on its territory: the Battle of Verdun, which began on February 21 and raged until the middle of December, and the Battle of the Somme, which began on July 1 and continued to mid-November. The number of casualties can never be known for sure, but by some estimates France suffered as many as one million killed, wounded, and taken prisoner in these two battles. These volumes, produced for propagandistic purposes, give little indication of the sufferings of the common soldier. The dead and wounded are not shown in most fascicles (Fascicle XIV is devoted to care of the wounded), and trenches are depicted as neat and dry. On the other hand, the destruction to French towns and the French countryside wrought by the invading Germans is shown in considerable detail.   

Last updated: September 11, 2017