WWI Photos Taken by Prince Edward to Go Under the Hammer

Photographs snapped by Prince Edward, then Prince of Wales, from the Western Front are set to go under the hammer this October 1 in London.

The said photographs were snapped by the prince, the future Edward VIII, while he was on a sightseeing tour in the Western Front in 1915, some 99 years back. Prince Edward was then 21 when he took the said photos.

His album of photographs included a group of German POWs, buildings damaged by WWI bombs, shell holes and of British soldiers practicing throwing hand grenades with the use of dummy soldiers.

His collection also included scores of images of Army officers he met and were willing to be snapped. Several of the photos Prince Edward took bear captions he wrote himself at the back of each.

Among the Army officers he took photos of being Major General Prince Alexander of Teck and Lord Claud Hamilton. The latter became known the year before the photo was snapped for commanding a machine gun in a span of five days and nights without relief. Prince Edward also snapped a photo of the British-Indian Army officer Sir Pertab Singh, who, even at 70 years of age, commanded his regiments in France. His collection of photos also included one of his with Sister Julie, a French nun who was a holder of the Legion of Honor Cross.

Prince Edward, the same prince who caused a constitutional crisis 20 years after, when he abdicated from his title so he could marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson, was an army officer during the Great War.

He had wanted to fight in the war’s front lines, but Lord Kitchener forbade him to do so. The reason behind Lord Kitchener’s decision was due to the fact that Prince Edward might end up killed or captured in the conflict. So, the prince had to make do with visits to the British soldiers in a number of occasions in 1915.

Some of the photos Prince Edward took during his tour in the WWI's Western Front.
Some of the photos Prince Edward took during his tour in the WWI’s Western Front.

Prince Edward snapped the photos in between January and September of 1915 in different localities in France, just about five miles from the front lines.

The auctioned album of photos had remained with Prince Edward until his death. It, then, went into the hands of his widow, Wallis, until she died in 1986. Mohammed Fayed, then, sold the album of Prince Edward to a private collector in 1997.

This same collector offered to sell the Prince Edward WWI album with the expected fetching price at £6,000 to £8,000. The collection has about 650 prints all taken by Prince Edward himself, according to the Bonhams Auction House.

Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE