Selected by Stephen Miller, Web Editor
These photographs were taken during the course of battle from aeroplanes flying over the trenches and published in L’Album de la Guerre (Paris, 1926). The first is a double-page spread highlighted by a plume of smoke. The foreground shows ‘our [French army] assault wave’. The caption points to ‘small German groups’ fleeing in the distance (inset here). The second image is timed precisely as taken at 3pm on 17 Sep 1916 ‘from an aeroplane at 200 meters height’. It shows ‘reinforcements [who] arrive by German passages already captured.’
The irregular nature of the trenches is clear, the surrounding area badly pockmarked. These flying photographers must have been intrepid. They appear to be just above the battle. Were they targets, or was aerial reconnaissance of this sort too new to draw much effective fire? A close-up of the second image shows members of the French 10th army moving along trenches wearing – unsurprisingly – trench coats. Gritty as it seems, this is reported to be a successful operation.
It amazes me to be able to look directly into the war from above.
Ref: L’Album de la Guerre 1914-1919: Histoire Photographique et Documentaire Reconstituee Chronologiquement a l’Aide de Cliches et de Dessins Publies par “L’Illustration” de 1914 a 1921.
More images from L’Album de la Guerre can be seen on our Serving Soldier website