Thursday, 11 November 2010

Eleventh hour, eleventh day of the eleventh month.

                                     In a corner of a foreign field

In the mid 90's I made a photographic essay about the battlefields of the first world war raged around the city of Ypres in Belgium. I based it on the sites and names give to the battlefield by the troops as shown on the opening map. The project was part of an artist exchange between three Scottish artists worked in Belgium and they worked here. The  exhibition  was shown in several cities over there. Though getting very good critical reviews understandably sales were few, there did seem to be an embarrassment  about the area and few Belgians to whom I spoke out with the area had ever visit except perhaps on a school visit in their youth.

To this day they play the last post at the Menin Gate with it's 54896 names of those missing without trace on the local battlefield. Numerous other monuments with even more names are scattered all along the hundreds of miles of front line from the years of trench warfare.


  1. Have you stood underneath and looked at all of those names? I went on a school trip when I was 14 - too young to really understand what it all meant.

  2. Hellfire corner, the salient, these places mark a horror, and a tragedy. They recall a senseless and absurd sacrifice. The heroism and individual stories overwhelmed by a monumental crime, a modern "dies irae". How?
    Ninety odd years later there is still a shame to be part of a species that can permit this.
    I understand the Belgian locals....but that's why the comment is always "lest we forget"

  3. I went several times before I made the photograph of the policeman stopping the traffic for the ceremony. The names cover the building, enough to fill a small town.

  4. The link to the pictures came out brown in the original, perhaps you missed it.

  5. War is insanity, but WWI has to be the most insane war ever fought. Old fashioned trench warfare, but with machine guns, tanks and poison gas. It's a wonder that anyone came home alive.

    WWI is all but forgotten here in the US. Armistice Day has been converted to Veterans Day, and is just another day off for some. Most don't even get the day off. You rarely ever see anyone wearing a poppy anymore. Last year I went to the grocery store, and a fellow Vietnam veteran from the local VFW post was handing out poppies in exchange for donations. I got one from him. It was the first poppy I had seen in years. I noticed from television news reports that all of the UK politicians were wearing poppies. Good to see you are keeping the tradition alive over there.

    Your pictures were nice, but once again they all came out rather dark.

    Melissa XX

  6. My Great Grandfather Wallace (Wally?) was killed in the Great War. However he wasn't killed in the trenches. He was master of a merchant ship (probably a carrying coals from NE England). The ship was sunk by the German navy just off Whitby with all souls lost. He has a merchant seamen’s war grave in Whitby cemetery. A couple of years ago, as I live fairly close I went to visit it. It took me an age but after an hour wandering around and around I finally came across it. The wonderful Commonwealth War Graves Commission have replaced the stone in recent years. I was probably the first person from his family ever to visit his grave. He came from Whitstable in Kent and its doubtful that his family ever had the money to make a journey up there. It brings a tear to my eye just to think of that but at least I can say he is not forgotten


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