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Unearthed in a barn in rural France, the 270 never-before-seen World War One pictures available exclusively from The Independent provide an intriguing insight into the history of the period. But their origin is shrouded in mystery, and the questions they raise are manifold; who is the seven-foot-tall giant pictured towering over his comrades, for example? What can we make of the rare image of a black soldier serving alongside his white comrades? And, perhaps the most strange, how did it come to be that one soldier is photographed sporting a tattoo depicting the British Royal Family which covers his back?

While Matilda Battersby has conducted preliminary research into some of the most compelling of the images, the real work is yet to be done; and this is where we need the help of Independent readers to help piece together the clues and reveal the stories behind these new pictures. It's difficult to imagine such fascinating images not having some interesting tales attached to them; and with your help we hope to uncover as much as possible of their fascinating history. We'll follow up with the most relevant reader analysis being posted on independent.co.uk. Here are the ways you can contribute:

1. Leave a comment on the article with any details you've noticed or relevant facts, along with the image number for reference

2. We've created a specific place where you can discuss the origin of the most compelling images; to see them and leave your comments,
click here.

3. For longer contributions, start an Independent Minds blog and chart your investigations, with contributions from the Independent Minds community.

4. For personal information regarding the photos which you don't wish to post on the site but you feel might help, email l.ryan@independent.co.uk

5. Spread the word using social media - Tweet a link to our investigation, or vote for the stories on
Digg and Reddit

Comments

No Irish Regiments!
ron_broxted wrote:
Friday, 22 May 2009 at 04:40 pm (UTC)
57.Light Infantry, Duke of Cornwall,Durham,Somerset?
62.Black Watch (but no red hackle?)
98.Grenadier ?
116. Canadian (?)
189. Appointment is on lower right cuff, a senior NCO perhaps, medals indicate a Boer War veteran.
209. Colour Sergeant ?
flickr
atotalstitch wrote:
Tuesday, 26 May 2009 at 12:34 pm (UTC)
Why doesn't the Independent create a Flickr account and add these photographs? Not only would it be easier to view them but there will also be greater exposure to the subject area. There are several groups and members who volunteer their services in restoration and more importantly, identification of people and places.

Re: flickr
kiki17a wrote:
Sunday, 11 April 2010 at 12:04 pm (UTC)
Excellent idea. If organised under regiments, then families such as mine (grandfather Northumberland Fusiliers, at the Somme) could look for relatives & help with identification
Re: flickr
eleanor_j wrote:
Thursday, 27 May 2010 at 01:49 am (UTC)
Excellent idea. The pictures take far too long to load on this site and on Flickr they can be enlarged.

Picture 119 shows two cavalry officers. They will have trained at Sandhurst (same as all the other Officers shown here) and are likely to be recorded on named photographs at the Academy. The archivist will at least be intersted in the pictures

Is picture 153 of a doctor? He appears to be holding bandages.
Re: flickr
wendybachman wrote:
Tuesday, 22 June 2010 at 07:39 pm (UTC)
... I'm sure these images would be candidates for Flickr's "The Commons", where quite a lot of eyeballs will be attracted to them.
photos
celtic1940 wrote:
Friday, 29 May 2009 at 01:04 am (UTC)
Since my lack of photos of my relatives in Britain is sadly lacking I am hoping some may be identified in these photos. The letters I have from 1918 & 1920 speak of children and grandchildren who served but I do not have complete names. I can locate my great-great grandfather on a ship in 1862 but not people from WWI.
I do have a metal memento of Ypres that measures approx 1 1/4 " x 1" and contains small folded photos of Ypres but only know it came from my great grandparents.
identification
morengis wrote:
Friday, 5 June 2009 at 03:08 pm (UTC)
Has anyone identified the soldier in the first photograph on the main page?
He looks so much like my grandfather who died in the great epidemic in 1924.
He was a captain in the Northumberland Fusiliers.
I have two uniform badges that look very much like two in the photographs collection. My brother and I are trying to dig out any photographs and correspondence.

morengis
Re: 5 June 2009 at 03:08, 'Identification'
243herbert wrote:
Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 09:34 pm (UTC)
Dear Morengis,

I hope I'm referring to the right photo, as shown here in the USA: The gent standing in a very herbaceous setting with his hands clasped in front, holding a white object in his left?

I don't think the subject could could be the one you describe. He isn't wearing Officer's uniform, but rather that of the 'Other Ranks', or enlisted soldiers. It's made from coarse, drab serge, with an unflattering but practical fit, unlike the Officers' very smart, tailored version. In the absence of any visible sleeve patches, his rank appears to be that of an ordinary Private.

Moreover, this man evidently belongs to a 'mounted' unit rather than an infantry battalion. Curiously enough, this is apparent from the way he wears his puttees. He has wrapped them from the top of the calf downward, towards the ankle, where they are secured by the tapes at their ends. These lighter-colored bands are clearly visible, just above the boot tops. Soldiers in 'dismounted' units, such as infantry, wound their puttees in the opposite direction, upwards from the ankle and taped off just below the knee. As far as I know, all personnel in either type of unit were to follow the same practice, whether or not a given individual actually rode or drove horses.

The cap badge shows up too indistinctly for positive identification on my screen. The general outline doesn't rule out that of the Northumberland Fusiliers. I incline, however, toward the Army Service Corps, or conceivably the Royal Artillery. All three of these are amply represented in the photo series. Of the latter two branches, though, most components were designated as mounted.

I hope this helps and I'd be interested in correction from anyone who knows better!

Cheers,

243 Herbert
Re: 5 June 2009 at 03:08, 'Identification'
morengis wrote:
Friday, 14 August 2009 at 08:55 am (UTC)
Dear 243 Herbert

Mny thanks for your in-depth reply. I will convey this message to my brother who lives in another country.
From there I can inform of any progress on our behalf.

Morengis
Re: 5 June 2009 at 03:08, 'Identification'
oriel3 wrote:
Saturday, 29 May 2010 at 01:51 pm (UTC)
The blurred image of a cap badge (photo no. 5)looks very like that of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Compare with the image in the link below.

http://www.waterfordcountymuseum.org/exhibit/web/Display/article/50/3/
Re: 5 June 2009 at 03:08, 'Identification'
243herbert wrote:
Sunday, 30 May 2010 at 08:13 am (UTC)
Hello Oriel 3,

I agree about the resemblance. I can't claim knowledge of anything like the full range of regimental badges without a reference, and happily defer to any expert! I can only suggest some points of internal evidence:

1. Do you notice any other or possible or definite Dublin Fusiliers among the other portraits? I only looked at samples, but found that certain corps predominated, just as John Lichfield observes in the 'Independent''s introductory article. Consequently, if there are numerous other members of the RDF represented, I'd say the chances were in favour. If not, then less likely.

2. The location and date should help with the story. Let's take Lichfield on faith that these photos do date to the preparations for the Somme. In that case, one might investigate the Allied order of battle for whatever sector was in front of Warloy-Baillon, both before and during the offensive. Then check THAT against the corps definitely represented in the photos, and we'd know if these do represent troops in the line ten miles to the east. THEN we'd work from those results . . . etc.

3. Finally, I still return to the 'mounted' manner of wearing the puttees. Were some personnel within infantry battalions ever actually uniformed as mounted soldiers? Even if so, this can only have been in its horse-drawn support elements. Supposing that were the case, then perhaps the man in this portrait could be a waggon driver or farrier, for example, or conceivably a motorcyclist, signaller etc. As far as I'm aware, however, only members of branches other than infantry, such as horse- and field artillery, cavalry, engineers and service corps, generally affected the mounted style. This man isn't actually in riding breeches, but by 1915-16 those were increasingly confined to individuals who really spent time in the saddle (shortages are suggested even in this photo, by the 'Economy Pattern' S.D. jacket). Someone better informed will know.

So, for me it's still up in the air. That blasted order of battle! The confounding puttees! Again, the appeal goes out to others' learning!

Cheers,

243 Herbert
Re: 5 June 2009 at 03:08, 'Identification'
oriel3 wrote:
Monday, 31 May 2010 at 01:41 pm (UTC)
Hello 243 Herbert

I think you know far more about military dress than I do! The following may be more of a hindrance than a help.

There are several soldiers from 8th RDF commemorated at Loos and their deaths date from January - April 1916. The book 'Orange Green and Khaki' (Tom Johnstone, Gill and Macmillan, 1992) shows the 8 RDF in the front line, with the 9 RDF to the rear at the end of April 1916. As for the Somme,
"Irish battalions serving in other divisions took part in the attack on July1. The 1st Royal Dublin Fusiliers, veterans of Gallipoli, went into action in a sector neighbouring the 36th. They had 147 casualties (22 killed) and 64 missing. The 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers were in the second wave of the attack, going into battle with 23 officers and 480 other ranks: 14 officers and 311 other ranks were casualties. The 1st Royal Irish Rifles, 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers, 1st and 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 2nd Royal Irish Regiment and the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Tyneside Irish Battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers fought on that day." (From the Irish Govt website)

My grandfather served in 2nd Royal Irish Fusiliers. His photos, both studio and outdoor, show him wearing puttees. He had pre-war experience with horses and I gather this expertise was invaluable during his service. Luckily for him (and me!) his battalion was sent east at the end of November 1915, so he missed the Somme.

It seems plausible, then, that one or more from the RDF were included in the photos taken in the early months of 1916. But I do not know enough to identify any in the photos I have looked at.

Best wishes

Oriel3
Middlesex Regiment?
trente_et_un wrote:
Monday, 7 December 2009 at 10:25 pm (UTC)
I wonder if anyone can help me?
My great-great grandfather, William Albert Anderton was a private serving with the Middlesex regiment, he died in August 1916, and is buried in the commonwealth cemetery at Warloy-Baillon, the village where the photographs were found.
I'm desperate to know if he is one of the men in these photographs.
Would anybody be able to tell me if they recognised someone from the Middlesex regiment in any of the images?
Re: Middlesex Regiment?
michaeljago wrote:
Saturday, 4 December 2010 at 05:32 pm (UTC)
I believe that I have identified my grandfather in one of the photos. He was a sergeant, later captain, with the Middlesex. Not a certain identification but possible. Good luck / Michael
Re: Middlesex Regiment?
michaeljago wrote:
Saturday, 4 December 2010 at 05:55 pm (UTC)
Trente et un,
I failed to mention that the First Battalion of the Middlesex was at Bazentin le Petit, just to the East of Warloy-Baillon, in July 1916, so it is very possible that pictures of their men could have been taken at Warloy as they went up to the front and the time periods are congruent. Again, good luck / Michael
The horses
13richard wrote:
Thursday, 17 June 2010 at 06:13 pm (UTC)
What remarkable photographs. While most of the men, understandably, look pretty shabby, the horses look remarkably fit and well cared for. Writing from Seattle, both my grandfathers served at this time - one with the Lancashire Fusiliers and the other with the Northumberland Fusiliers. Both survived the war but each had been gassed and never really recovered to live normal lives. Oh the great sadness of the First War.
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