WWI battlefield images to create a gateway to historic landscapes of the Great War

Memory of war: The Champagne Battlefield burial site memorial left intact on the Western Front with the soldier's equipment left on the grave, along with a plaque placed there by his father in 1919
A father pays tribute to his son who served in the World War I. A helmet and equipment and a plaque adorn the son’s graveyard in Champagne Battlefield Burial Site.

Photographs of battlefields during the World War I are in exhibit in a gallery show in Westminster Hall in Britain for the first time. After one hundred years, the future generation can get a glimpse of the battlefields of the Great War. These landscapes were once the staging ground of many clashes that claimed around 21 million lives.

The Somme, Passchendaele, Ypres and Verdun are but few of the many places of the Western Front where soldiers of both sides tread on and exchanged fires during the World War I. The incidents in history left only but hints of the carnage and bloodshed that go with the war. Today, no one would think that the tranquil sites were once battlefields.

The Exhibition

Already fifteen images are to go on show next month. The photographs are the product of the six-year project of World Press Photo awardee Mike St. Maur Shiel. The Mail Online reports that the the photographs are to go on show in an exhibition at the Westminster Hall between November 5 and 14. The street gallery was allowed by the Black Rod.

The exhibition dubbed as the Fields of Battle Lands of Peace 14-18 will showcase free-standing photos, each measuring 1.2 meters by 1.8 meters.

One of the photos show an image of a grieving father’s tribute to his son who served during the World War I. The photo shows the son’s helmet and equipment and a plaque at the graveside of the soldier at the Champagne battle site.

Aside from the tribute photograph, the exhibit will also feature the various battle sites which have now recovered from the previous wars. The images cover 600 kilometers of the various spots from the coast of the English Channel, Belgium, France and the Swiss border.

Street exhibition: An artist's impression imagines visitors gazing at the images taken by photographer Mike St Maur Shiel of the battlefields and the relics left by the Great War
Exhibition of WWI battle field photographs by St Maur Sheil in London.

The modern Europe pictures of the battle sites will hopefully encourage tourists and locals to visit these historic places, the Mail Online reports.

The photographer St Maur Sheil said, “This collection represents a legacy which I hope will create a gateway to the battlefields themselves, encouraging people to visit these historic landscapes during the centennial period and so create awareness and understanding of the events.”

By August 2014, the photographer hopes to capture 60 images to be displayed in an exhibition in central London. The exhibition will also be scheduled across the United Kingdom and Ireland during the centenary next year until 2018 following a timeline based on events of the Great War.

The Photographer

St Maur Sheil is an award-winning photographer. His work includes coverage on child trafficking in West Africa. His father served in Dunkirk as a member of the London Irish Rifles in 1940. When he visited Dunkirk, he began taking snapshots of the place. This is when he started taking photographs of battle fields. 

“Oddly enough he featured in what has become one of the iconic images of that battle but what came as a complete surprise to me was the extraordinary memory he had for what appeared to me to be feature-less fields,” St Maur Sheil said. “We visited Ypres and I watched him as he stood erect at the Menin Gate, fighting back his tears: it was an emotion I had never been exposed to before.”


Fields of Battle Lands of Peace 14-18 is an exhibition with the collaborations of historian, the late Sir Richard Holmes and Chris Bridge of street gallery pioneers, WeCommunic8, and the St. Maur Sheil himself.



Siegphyl is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE