The 11th November 2018 will mark the passing of 100 years since Armistice Day, where a cessation of hostilities was formally agreed and signed between the Allies and Germany in Compiègne, France. The guns fell silent and the First World War had finally come to an end. During the four years of war, millions of men faced each other in the trenches, under the constant threat of unceasing artillery bombardment and orders to climb over the sandbagged parapet into no man’s land, where they were met with coils of barbed wire, waterlogged shell craters, abandoned corpses, and unrelenting machine gun fire.
The human losses and untold suffering and misery resulting from the Great War was immense and scarcely imaginable. The military dead totalled almost 9 million, the civilian dead (largely caused by mass deportation, famine, and disease) close to 6 million, and as many as 7 million combatants had been captured by the enemy and sometimes spent years in often primitive living conditions in prisoner-of-war camps. But shocking as these numbers are, they are insufficient in encapsulating the true horror of a war that had destroyed political systems, ruined economies, divided societies, and tore apart families.
To commemorate 100 years since Armistice Day, here are 100 photographs taken between 1914 and 1918 which I hope will give you a glimpse of day-to-day life in the trenches, the emerging technologies which took death and destruction to new heights, the horrors of warfare on both sides of the fighting, and the morale and comradery which enabled soldiers to endure it.
Belgian infantry marching to Antwerp, Belgium.
A German soldier on horseback equipped with a spear and a gas mask.
German soldiers wearing body armour manning a machine gun post.
A soldier stood in the trenches knee deep in muddy water.
German reinforcements being transported to the front by a steam locomotive.
The British prime minister David Lloyd George, centre, visits the front.
An injured and shell-shocked soldier being led away from the front.
An injured soldier happy to be going home.
Captured Russian officers after their defeat the Battle of Tannenberg.
Russian prisoners of war.
Captured Russian field guns.
A soldier helping a comrade through the mud.
An ammunition wagon hit by a shell at Ypres, Belgium.
Eight million horses and countless mules and donkeys died in the First World War.
Bones from thousands of soldiers gathered from the battlefield.
A soldier standing on a Mark VII naval gun.
British soldiers preparing for a gas attack.
Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck, second from right, commander of the German East Africa forces.
British supply depot near The Somme, France.
Seriously wounded soldiers were waiting to be taken away from the front, but help didn’t arrive fast enough, and they were all killed during an attack.
Executed German soldiers, most probably because of spying.
Approximately 1.3 million Indian soldiers served in World War One alongside allied troops, and over 74,000 of them lost their lives.
Two German soldiers using pedal power to generate electricity for a telegraph station.
A soldier who has been severely burned by mustard gas.
Pigeons played a crucial role in World War One, and over 100,000 were used to send messages during the course of the war.
Rats were a common occurrence in the trenches, breeding in their millions and gnawing on the corpses of fallen soldiers.
Three soldiers rolling a Howitzer shell.
A Red Cross nurse gives water to a wounded soldier.
A soldier killed by shell debris to the head.
Fallen German soldiers.
A German heavy artillery shell reaches its target.
A German gas attack at The Somme, France, in 1916.
British soldiers preparing for a German attack.
Belgian soldiers taking a break behind the front line.
The crew of a British railway gun.
A French cannon at Verdun, France.
Small patrols of men, such as these British patrol workers, were often sent into no man’s Land to discover information about the enemy.
Soldiers march in single file on their way to the front line.
Soldiers knee deep in mud carry an injured soldier on a stretcher.
A horse struggles in the mud to pull a supply wagon.
British 55th (West Lancashire) Division troops blinded by tear gas await treatment at an advanced dressing station near Béthune, France, during the Battle of Estaires.
Paul von Hindenburg, front and centre, Field Marshal of the German military, and Erich Ludendorff, second row and centre, Quartermaster General.
Rows of skulls and bones from fallen soldiers.
Russian prisoners of war await inspection.
A British field gun at the Vermont Bridge.
British soldiers defending the river at Merville, France.
A severely burned soldier is wrapped in bandages by his comrades.
A wounded soldier from the 51st (Highland) Division being helped on the way to a field post behind the front.
The countless graves of German soldiers across no man’s land.
A graveyard hit by a shell.
Soldiers enjoying cups of fresh milk.
Soldiers washing their hands in a water-filled shell crater.
German infantry attacks at the Aisne River, France.
German infantry crossing a road under British fire.
A soldier placing a projectile into a trench mortar.
Two soldiers displaying what looks to be a human trap.
A German infantryman next to a dead French soldier during the attack of Fort Vaux, France.
Four soldiers manning a machine gun post.
German cavalry at Verdun, France.
German flamethrower in combat.
Another German flamethrower in combat.
Manfred von Richthofen, also known as the Red Baron, was a fighter pilot with the German Air Force during World War One, officially credited with 80 air combat victories.
Used bandages are washed and ready to be used again.
Clothes which are contaminated with mustard gas are collected ready to be burned.
French tanks played a key role for the American troops to advance at the Battle of Soissons, France.
A U-boat fires upon a trade ship.
American soldiers during training in France.
A Jack Russell Terrier delivers food to the trenches.
A railway gun is firing on German positions in the Forest of Argonne, France.
William Birdwood, middle, was a British Army officer and commander of the Australian and New Zealand contingents in World War One.
The Prussian general Otto von Emmich, front, who was in command during The Battle of Liège, the first battle of World War One.
Indian soldiers for the British Empire on the way to the front at Ypres, Belgium.
Soldiers having their gas masks inspected.
Australia and New Zealand contingents attack Turkish positions in 1915.
Soldiers coming under heavy artillery fire.
British observation balloons were deployed on land and at sea for observing enemy troops, locating submarines, and spotting artillery.
German reinforcements to The Somme from Verdun, France.
A soldier making tea for his fellow troops.
During World War One, letter writing was the main form of communication between soldiers and their loved ones, helping to ease the pain of separation.
A German SM U-35 and SM U-45 pass at sea.
Soldiers rush into artillery fire.
German soldiers in the trenches at Flanders, Belgium.
A destroyed town hall in Péronne, France, and on its front is a wooden sign displaying the message “Don’t get cross, only be surprised!”
An American soldier prays at a crucifix that hasn’t been destroyed.
Soldiers unloading artillery shells from wagons.
British medics evacuating a wounded soldier during a gas attack.
British soldiers dig out an ammunition wagon from the mud.
Fallen Scottish soldiers at Zonnebeke, Belgium.
Fallen German soldiers in the trenches.
Wounded British soldiers crawling to safety.
An example of the British sense of humour during the war. Next to a hotel destroyed by artillery fire is a sign which reads “Hotel for sale”.
A destroyed cathedral in Péronne, Somme.
A soldier wearing a gas mask erecting a wooden tripod.
A solitary soldier walks through no man’s land.
A water station on the Belgian front line shared between British and Belgian forces.
British soldiers constructing a defence position during the Battle of Passchendaele, Belgium.
A Circassian cavalry regiment from The Caucasus.
A French grenade launcher has just been fired.
British soldiers marching to The Somme, France.
The Poppy Appeal
The Poppy Appeal is the Royal British Legion’s biggest fundraising campaign held every year in November, the period of remembrance. This year, we mark the end of the World War One centenary by saying thank you to all who served, sacrificed and changed our world. For more information about how the Royal British Legion use the money to provide lifelong support for serving men and women, veterans, and their families, please click here, and for information about how to make a donation, please click here.