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Remains of a British soldier

Article about: by lithgow I believe the picture is posed-a body takes some time to be in that state-all the equipment is arranged around the remains and shows no evidence of being overgrown or subject to e

  1. #1

    Default Remains of a British soldier

    Hello all,

    Not sure how everyone would feel about this photo, but I decided to post it here. Years ago, I purchased this photo at a militaria show. It was in a box of other original images from WW1. As far as I can tell, it is a vintage photo printed on heavy weight photo paper. It's certainly not a recent reprint due to the age of the paper and the damage done to parts of the image from improper storage over the years. I bought this photo not because I particularly like seeing things like this, but at the time I was collecting British militaria from the Great War and the image of this forgotten soldier really stuck with me. I recently found it again after I tucked it away in a book on the Western Front so here it is. (I really should not have done that, but at the time I was moving, so everything packed up in a rush) I'm guessing the image was taken 6 months to two years after the soldier was killed. As you can see, his skull is bleached white by the sun. His tunic is the typical 1902 pattern, yet you can see the P-14 leather gear he wore. Since that was only issued in 1915, I'm assuming he was a long serving infantryman. His gasmask points to his death being after 1917 as that is when small box respirators began to be issued. His helmet has a very faint divisional marking on it. To me, it looks like an upside down triangle, but I can't be sure. If it is, that might indicate he was part of the 168th Brigade of the 56th Division, which was a London Territorial division. Again, I can't be sure of the marking, so this is an educated guess. The image, although quite horrible, is also quite poignant. We can assume since he was found with his kit, he was able to be identified and given a proper burial, unlike 140,000 of his comrades with no known grave.

    Hopefully I have not offended anyone with this image, but it has always reminded me of the human cost of war, something I try to keep in mind in my collecting.

    Best,

    Tim





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  2. #2
    ?

    Default Re: Remains of a British soldier

    The price of freedom.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Remains of a British soldier

    It looks like he wasnt alone when he died. His head seems to be comforted and water placed by his side.

    RIP

    Nick
    "In all my years as a soldier, I have never seen men fight so hard." - SS Obergruppenfuhrer Wilhelm Bittrich - Arnhem

  4. #4

    Default Re: Remains of a British soldier

    SteveR, I agree..........that is the price of freedom in many cases. One thing about the Great War that always stayed with me is that most of the war was for nothing at all. There was no ground taken and much of the fighting was an excercise in bloody attrition. Add to this the overall criminal stupidity of the high command who simply threw men's lives away and I have to wonder if the Great War was a fight for freedom or simply an appalling mistake? When the war halted in November of 1918, the butcher's bill was staggering and in 21 years the world would do it all over again albeit for a more defined reason and goal. WW2 HAD to be fought and won and in many ways was a continuation of the Great War. What was no resolved in 1918 was finally put to rest in 1945.

  5. #5
    ?

    Default Re: Remains of a British soldier

    A haunting image to say the least and brings the totality of the war home .
    Excellent observation Nick I would have to agree with you he does look as if he was comforted and his head was propped up on the gas mask bag.

    Regards Mark K

  6. #6

    Default Re: Remains of a British soldier

    Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori

  7. #7

    Default Re: Remains of a British soldier

    Quote by Bravo 20 View Post
    His tunic is the typical 1902 pattern, yet you can see the P-14 leather gear he wore. Since that was only issued in 1915, I'm assuming he was a long serving infantryman. His gasmask points to his death being after 1917 as that is when small box respirators began to be issued. His helmet has a very faint divisional marking on it. To me, it looks like an upside down triangle, but I can't be sure. If it is, that might indicate he was part of the 168th Brigade of the 56th Division, which was a London Territorial division.
    I think it's pretty much impossible to tell what the mark on his helmet is. It looks like a more elaborate shape than a simple triangle though. I was not aware of 56th Division wearing triangles on their helmets though (or indeed having any helmet scheme), but if you have some information on it I would love to know . The 1/14th London Regt wore a red triangle on their sleeves, 1/12th London used a red square (with officers having a black maltese cross on the back of the jacket and helmet apparently), and i am not sure about the other two 168th Bde units (1/4th and 1/13th London). Most of the WW1 patch schemes tended to follow brigade or divisional patterns, and i would make an educated guess that 168th Bde were using red patches with the shapes indicating battalion.

    The issue of 1914 Pattern infantry Equipment was not a purely 1915 thing either. Troops were issued with it right up until the early post-war period when it was made obsolete. He could have been called up in 1918 and issued 1914 Pattern.

    Rob

  8. #8

    Default Re: Remains of a British soldier

    I believe the picture is posed-a body takes some time to be in that state-all the equipment is arranged around the remains and shows no evidence of being overgrown or subject to exposure-the rifle would not have been left with the remains if other men were in a position to recover it at the time. Such composition for photos was common during WW1 (and before) as camera equipment was bulky and difficult to move and use around an active battlefield.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Remains of a British soldier

    And the poor guy was born with no mandible (jaw).

    Eric
    [h=3]e plu·ri·bus u·num[/h]

  10. #10

    Default Re: Remains of a British soldier

    Quote by lithgow View Post
    I believe the picture is posed-a body takes some time to be in that state-all the equipment is arranged around the remains and shows no evidence of being overgrown or subject to exposure-the rifle would not have been left with the remains if other men were in a position to recover it at the time. Such composition for photos was common during WW1 (and before) as camera equipment was bulky and difficult to move and use around an active battlefield.
    I think you are right !

    Nick
    "In all my years as a soldier, I have never seen men fight so hard." - SS Obergruppenfuhrer Wilhelm Bittrich - Arnhem

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