One hundred years ago after four years of unimaginable carnage, the first world war finally came to an end.
In its wake the conflict left tens of millions dead, many more injured, and vast swathes of land decimated by an estimated 1.5 billion shells on the Western Front alone.
The devastation was unprecedented and, thanks to advances in photography, so was its documentation. In addition to the amateur snaps captured by soldiers (despite most militaries forbidding it), and photographs taken for journalistic purposes, photography played a vital military role, specifically in the areas of reconnaissance both aerial and terrestrial.
It is a collection of photographs belonging to the latter camp that we’ve chosen to focus on in this post.
They were found in a collection housed at the Imperial War Museum titled “British Official Panoramas Of The Western Front 1914–1918” which contains thousands of battlefield panoramas, each made by piecing together anything from three to thirty regular sized photographs.
To capture these photographs army photographers would have to have spent long periods with their head above the parapet – a view so dangerous it was only normally witnessed via the medium of a trench periscope or mirror.
Once developed in mobile darkrooms and pieced together, the resulting panoramas could be studied and annotated with information about enemy positions and key locations relating to future operations.