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By National Science and Media Museum on

Collection Selections: The First World War on camera

On 4 August 1914 the largest global conflict the world had witnessed began. We look at the role photography played in representing the ‘War to End All Wars’.

The First World War was captured through many different types of photography, from official war records to personal mementos.

The British government commissioned official photographers to capture images of First World War life—both on the battlefield and on the home front. They recognised the importance of photography, both as propaganda and as a historical record.

In 1914, cheap, easy-to-use snapshot cameras were widely available and many soldiers bought cameras to record their own wartime experiences. Kodak even advertised their popular Vest Pocket Kodak camera as ‘The Soldier’s Kodak’.

Black and white picture of soldiers waiting at London Victoria train station.
‘The Gate of Goodbye’, 1917, Francis James Mortimer
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
A World War One battlefield scene, with barbed wire fences and bodies on the floor
‘The gaps in the wire near Anvil Wood through which the 53rd Battn rushed the machine gun posts on Aug 31st 1918 were death traps’, 1918, Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
Snapshot of British soldiers in a trench in the First World War, 1915
Snapshot of British soldiers in a trench in the First World War, 1915, Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
Picture of British soldiers baking bread
‘Bread Ovens of Army Bakery’, 1916, Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
English prisoners of war in Sennelager, Germany, 1914
English prisoners of war in Sennelager, Germany, 1914, Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
Picture of the silhouettes of World War One soldiers walking across the trenches
‘Supports going up after battle to relieve the front trenches’, 1917, James Francis Hurley
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
Picture of 'Hell Fire Corner' on the road between Ypres and Menin
‘Hell Fire Corner on the Menin Road’, c. 1917, Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
Picture of Three soldiers with their Christmas turkey, 1916
Three soldiers with their Christmas turkey, 1916,
Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
A group of soldiers outside a tent, 1916
Group of soldiers outside a tent, 1916, Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
Picture of Wild Eye, the Souvenir King, a British World War One soldier
‘Wild Eye, the Souvenir King’, c.1917, Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
First World War Zeppelin Raid on London, 1915
First World War Zeppelin Raid on London, 1915, A C Cooper
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
Picture of the King and Queen visiting an army clothing factory in 1916
‘Their Majesties Visit to an Army Clothing Factory’, 1916, Horace Nicholls
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
Black and white picture of a woman carrying a sack of coal on her back
‘Women at War’ Series, ‘Coal delivery’, 1916, Horace Nicholls
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
A dope room in an aircraft factory, 1915-1918
‘General view of dope room in aircraft factory’, 1915-1918, Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
Picture of Private Joseph Bailey at the Somme, just hours before he was killed.
Private Joseph Bailey, Battle of the Somme, 1916,
Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
Peace scenes in London, with wounded soldiers in wheelchairs waving with flags
Peace scenes in London, wounded soldiers with flags, 1919, Daily Herald Archive, Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
Picture of a street party in London celebrating the official declaration of peace, 1919
A street party in London celebrating the official declaration of peace, 1919, Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum
Photograph of a memorial to a deceased sailor
In Memoriam photograph of a sailor, 1916,
Photographer unknown
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

More photographs from the Official Australian photographs of World War One album are available on Flickr.

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