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The History of World War I in Photographs

Posted: Sat Aug 29, 2015 9:57 pm
by Brother Ranulf
Photographs by the Daily Mail, ISBN 978-1-4723-5531-7, published by Parragon in 2014.

I obtained my copy at half of the £20 price tag at the Imperial War Museum, where their major WW1 exhibition continues.

This book is mainly made up of large photographs and these images are from the Mail's own archives. I had not seen the majority of them before and there are some excellent pictures from almost every part of the conflict, although the Western Front accounts for the majority. The photographs are crisp, clear and very well printed. Small sections of text detail the various battles year by year, but these elements tend to be brief and generalised.

On the negative side, the captions accompanying the images are a major problem. They include (at best) a very short, one-sentence description of what the photograph shows, followed by an obscure waffling commentary on the political or military background at the time. It is as if the caption writer has no knowledge of the British, Anzac, American, French, German or Russian military of the time, which must be seen as a drawback in the circumstances. No details on the uniforms, equipment or units shown, no helpful explanation of what the men in the picture are actually doing, or details of some very unusual clothing and weaponry. In several cases the captions are nothing at all to do with the image and in a few the captions are doubtful or just plain wrong. For instance, the Anzac soldier on page 72 is described as "A member of the Australian Imperial Guards" (there was no such unit).

It is interesting to note the impact of "sanitisation" in the images - all the casualties shown are either German or Turks - but the realities of life amid filth, mud and water in the trenches are well depicted.

10 out of 10 for the images, barely 1 out of 10 for the captions.