First World War photos and pamphlets

Scope and Content

Two copies of Parliamentary Recruiting Committee pamphlet no. 43, ‘The truth about German atrocities: founded on a report of the Committee on Alleged German Outrages’. London, 1915.

80 halftone reproductions: mainly photographs, a few paintings. Disbound plates from William Stanley Macbean Knight (1869-1950), The history of the great European war: its causes and effects, assisted by eminent naval and military experts. London: Caxton Pub. Co. 1914-1920.

Plates are titled:

1. Types of the Russian cavalry. The Russian cavalry have peculiar methods of attack like no other cavalry in the world.

2. The nose of a huge bombing aeroplane, showing how the gun is used and the instruments used by the pilot.

3. Telephone lorry exchange attached to R.A.F. kite balloon section.

4. Visé in the hands of the Germans. This Belgian town was the first to suffer from the ‘mailed fist’. German troops are seen searching the ruined buildings in the expectation of loot.

5. Machine gunners in action wearing their gas helmets.

6. The British expeditionary force in Boulogne. The utmost secrecy was observed by the British war authorities in the transport of the British army, and not a single casualty was recorded in the wonderful feat of transporting the troops into France.

7. The Serbian army general staff on their retreat through Albania. The Commander-in-Chief (General Putnik) of the Serbians, although feeble in body and advanced in years, was possessed of a great and alert mind. Despite the fact that he had to be carried in a sedan chair, he directed the retreat with such consummate skill and generalship that he brought the army safely through its awful trials more than 200,000 strong.

8. A street in Lille. Photograph taken shortly after one of the battles in the manufacturing town of Lille, engagements which were desperate in their intensity. The Germans occupied the town on August 21, and for months it became the object of bombardment and attack by the French in their endeavour to drive them out.

9. The destruction of a Polish village. In her great and masterly retreat Russia ruthlessly put to the flame towns and villages rather than that a single grain of wheat or piece of material of the slightest use should fall into the hands of the enemy, thus repeating the historic tactics of the famous retreat from Moscow.

10. The Turkish defeat on the Suez Canal. The Turkish attacks on the Suez Canal resulted disastrously. The German-inspired scheme of crossing the Canal on pontoons laboriously dragged across the desert was a hopeless failure, and the photograph well illustrates the heavy price paid for the enterprise. The few who reached the further side of the canal left their bones to bleach in the desert.

11. Kiel harbour. The headquarters of the German navy contains the Imperial shipbuilding yards, slips, dry and wet docks, and is the seat of the Imperial Naval Academy. The town lies at the head of a deep inlet on the Baltic end of the Kiel Canal.

12. Fighting for the lost province of Alsace. The marvellous effect of the French artillery on the German lines on the Alsatian frontier is here shown. An artillery attack with the famous 75 gun is here shown in full progress.

13. Watching the battle in France. Lord Kitchener on the occasion of one of his visits to the front reviewed the operations of the French army and observed the marvellous shell fire of the French artillery.

14. At the bottom of the sea. In the wardroom of a submarine.

15. An infantry attack on the Somme. British troops are seen advancing across the open chalky plain of the Somme towards the German trenches near Mametz. The ‘woolly bear’ overhead indicates that the Germans’ artillery are peppering the advancing troops with shrapnel.

16. The taking of Landrecies [painting]. The villages along the banks of the Aisne, the Marne, and the Meuse were practically taken at the point of the bayonet; every house was a fort, and there was much fierce and desperate fighting, and hand-to-hand encounters. In the taking of Landrecies the Grenadier Guards added yet another name to their glorious record.

17. French field-service kitchen behind the firing line. Next to ammunition, an army in the field requires to be fed, and the elaborate and amazingly perfect organisation of the commissariat department of the French army is well illustrated in this photograph.

18. Trench warfare in the Argonne. The French infantry displayed considerable ingenuity in the construction of trench mortars made from unexploded German shells from which they fired bombs into the German trenches. In the photograph two of these mortars have just been fired and two others are seen about to be discharged.

19. The return of the Dove to the Ark. After a reconnaissance over the forts and field-line of the Turks, the seaplane is being taken in tow by the cruiser’s cutter. One of the wings was perforated by rifle fire on this occasion.

20. How the wounded were conveyed to the hospital ships. At the Dardanelles, the hospital trains gave way to hospital barges, which conveyed the wounded to the magnificently appointed hospital ships, equipped with every appliance for the alleviation of the wounded – lifts, electric light, operating tables, and all the apparatus of the operating theatre ready at hand for immediate needs, and willing hands and brains to use them.

21. German prisoners in Warsaw. The immobile nature of the German army – because of the absence of railways – and the heavy drain imposed on them by the strategy of the Russian army in Poland strained the German line to the breaking point; large numbers of them were taken prisoners and sent behind the Russian lines.

22. Victor and vanquished: the conquest of German South-West Africa. General Louis Botha nobly earned the proud distinction of having achieved a victory and of having brought to a successful conclusion a campaign against a treacherous and elusive foe, who is seen reading the terms of his surrender.

23. The great Serbian retreat. The crossing of the great plain of Kossovo was perhaps the most tragic incident in the great retreat. Snow lay thick on the ground, rivers were in flood, and the fugitive panic-stricken peasantry fled their country with famine, disease, and the enemy in close pursuit.

24. The supremacy of the seas. The supremacy of the British Navy and Merchant Service finds apt illustration in the photograph of a convoy of merchant vessels being escorted into a British port under the protection of the fleet of the Auxiliary Patrol Service. The photograph was taken from the airship patrol, accompanying the fleet.

25. The terrible retreat from Serbia. The last stand of the Serbian army was at Prizrend, where after five days of bloody battle the Serbians, spiking their guns, fled through the narrow defiles and mountain passes toward Albania. Disaster followed upon disaster, the retreating remnants of a nation suffering agonies indescribable in their flight.

26. A British super-submarine. One of the latest of the British M class of submarines. Her armament consists of a 12”-gun weighing 50 tons and firing a projectile 850 lbs. She is in reality a submersible monitor, and it needs no imagination to visualise the effect of a fleet of such monsters operating in German waters had they had an opportunity to do so.

27. Torpedo entering the water.

28. A Belgian outpost. The aftermath of the Battle of Haelen. Many of the villages and towns were reduced to a heap of smoking ruins, cottages and homes being blown to pieces by the enemy’s artillery.

29. A landship bringing in under camouflage a 5.9 German naval gun.

30. Krupp’s. This famous cannon foundry, where most of the engines of war employed by the German nation are manufactured, is situated in Essen, a town in the Rhenish Prussian coalfields. In 1848, when the business was founded, there were employed only 74 men – today they number an army of over 60,000 – sixty thousand men engaged in the manufacture of death-dealing instruments of war for the great European War Lord.

31. H. M. auxiliary cruiser ‘Coronado’ camouflaged.

32. An incident in the retreat from Mons [painting by Chevalier Fortunino Matania (1881-1963), originally featured in The Sphere]. The retreat from Mons witnessed many deeds pf quiet heroism which afford striking testimony to the glorious humanity and chivalry of the British Tommy – deeds which show that war on the one hand tears the thin veneer of civilisation and reveals it in all of its barbarous brutality, on the other hand it can transcend to heights of sublimity. A number of wounded were sheltered in a church over which the Red Cross flag was flying. The Germans began to shell the building, so that the unfortunate wounded, bearing the still more unfortunate wounded as best they could, had to seek safety in flight.

33. The effect of British shell fire. “Our artillery destroyed a convoy of motor transports on the road.” The above photograph is of the wreckage cleared from the road afterwards, and gives a vivid impression of the deadly accuracy of our guns, both sides of the road being strewn with wreckage.

34. On the way to the trenches. A train of transports on the way to the troops in the firing line.

35. Royal field artillery kite balloons were the eyes of our guns in France. The observers were highly trained men, and when their balloons were shelled or attacked by enemy aircraft they were forced to make rapid descents in parachutes. The observers were always connected to their parachutes.

36. An airship escorting a convoy.

37. Our transport passing through Malmedy, the first German town over the frontier.

38. The German occupation of Lille. The occupation of Lille by the Germans was accompanied by a great spectacular display, the streets were festooned with flags and garlands as for a fête. The Crown Prince of Bavaria, the central mounted figure, headed a great military procession of triumph.

39. German prisoners entering the cages. A careful study of the faces of many of these German soldiers will show that they present aspects of unmistakably ‘degenerate’ type; they contrast badly with the clean, alert British soldier. All bear their misfortunes with a certain air of enjoyment and no doubt relief.

40. A small motor tractor getting a huge R.A.F. bombing machine into position on an aerodrome near Ligescourt in France.

41. Departure of the Victorian (B.C.) contingent. Not until Britain was plunged in war did the nation realise the full significance and glory of the word Empire. Then, in response to the needs of the motherland, from every corner of the widely-distributed domain came money, material, and above all – men: loyal sons of Empire from India, Africa, Australia and Canada.

42. The 18th Hussars guarding a bridge on the Rhine at Cologne.

43. Captured German trenches at Les Eparges. By a system of saps the German trenches were frequently mined, the craters formed by the upheaval being occupied and put into a state of defence and habitation. The next duty of the occupants was to bury the dead, who are seen piled up along the bottom of the trench.

44. A village on the Western Front. There is quite a ‘Bairnsfather’ touch of humour about the wreckage with its signboard ‘Divisional Canteen’. No doubt the building whose skeleton only now remains did serve that useful purpose, but its usefulness was considerably impaired by the German bombardment of the village of which it formed a part.

45. The village of --------. This village was held by the Germans and was by the tremendous intensity of the British artillery reduced to little more than a mass of wood and brick rubbish, an astonishing testimony of the terrific hammering the British artillery inflicted on the enemy.

46. Transport difficulties at the Front. In the chalky soil of France, no less than in the mud of Flanders, the difficulty of supplying the troops with food and ammunition was tremendous. An ammunition wagon is here shown negotiating a derelict trench on its way to the firing line.

47. One night’s rations for a bombing squad. All these bombs were dropped on German munition dumps, railways, etc., by a night-bombing squadron in one night.

48. The pirate’s work: steamer breaking up.

49. The German ‘flammenwerfer’. French soldiers are here shown testing the flame-projectors captured by them from the Germans. This product of German ‘Kultur’ is to all intents and purposes identical with a portable fire extinguisher, both in principle and construction, and in order to realise in full the Hun-like brutality of its use it is necessary to remember that the great billowy clouds emitted from the apparatus are burning flames.

50. Red Cross train. An interior view of one of the travelling wards.

51. One of our observation balloons. It is seen coming to rest after a morning’s work peering over the German lines near Ypres.

52. British army carrier pigeons in France: horse-drawn lofts.

53. Conveying motor transport across the Mbaka River, German East Africa.

54. Hostile aircraft sighted. Men rushing to their positions – outside Armentières.

55. British dummy gun in field to attract the fire of the Germans.

56. Machine gun mounted on wheel so that gunner may easily swing round and follow enemy aeroplanes.

57. British army carrier pigeons in France. Carrier pigeons being sent up the line.

58. The blocking of Zeebrugge harbour. The above photograph was taken by a German airman, and gives incontestable evidence of the effectiveness of the brilliant operation which finally closed Zeebrugge harbour, the most important submarine base the Germans possessed.

59. French troops crossing a river. The scene of the great Allied offensive was in country intersected by streams, rivers and numerous canals. The crossing was effected by throwing the pontoons here shown across them. For minor operations these consisted of plank sections borne by light metal drums, but across the Marne pontoons 36 ft. wide were employed.

60. A park of British tanks. As an engine of war the tank fully justified itself on every occasion when it was brought into use. In destroying machine-gun posts and leading infantry attack they were pre-eminently successful, and at all times they were a terror to the Germans. The picture shows a ‘park’ of tanks just behind the British lines.

61. An infantry attack across ‘no man’s land’. A remarkable photograph showing the troops digging themselves in, taken from a low altitude by an aeroplane engaged in attacking the opposing enemy troops by machine-gun fire from the air.

62. The battle of the rivers. A detachment of the Belgian artillery preparing to take up a position of attack on Alost after having been driven out by the Germans. In this they were successful, but their success was short-lived, the ever-increasing hoard of Germans compelling them to retire upon Antwerp.

63. A heroic deed of the Royal Horse Artillery near Compiègne [painting by Chevalier Fortunino Matania (1881-1963), originally featured in The Sphere]. The heroic stand of ‘L’ Battery is one which will go down to posterity in the annals of the British army. The Battery was surprised in such a position that only three of the guns could reply to the deadly cannonade from the German guns, but those were at once manned by the few survivors of the deadly German onslaught, and were so magnificently served that one by one they silenced the German guns. At last only one out of the three remained, and only three men to defend the position. They, crouching behind the shield, served the gun with such deadly effect that only one gun of the German battery remained in action when they were rescued from their perilous position.

64. The offensive on the Cambrai front. One of the tanks temporarily hung up in the German Second System on side of road near Ribecourt, November 1917.

65. The offensive on the Cambrai front: a curious incident of the battle. Scene at an Advanced Dressing Station of a Highland battalion. German prisoners hauling up wounded by a windlass from a dugout.

66. The ‘scrap of paper’. A translation and facsimile of signatures from the original treaty of 1831 guaranteeing the independence and neutrality of Belgium, which was confirmed by the six powers in the famous treaty of 1839, the breaking of which by Germany is responsible for the present war with the British Empire.

67. The German Emperor. This unique portrait shows the Kaiser in the uniform of the famous Death’s-Head Hussars; incidentally it shows him without that characteristic theatrical pose peculiar to all other authorised portraits.

68. Portraits of German generals: General von Mackensen, General von Kluck, Field-Marshal von Hindenburg, Duke Albrecht of Würtemberg, Field Marshal von der Goltz.

69. The King’s African Rifles crossing the Ruwu River, German East Africa.

70. Wind and weather reports for the British army. A section at work in France filling balloons which are released, and the direction and strength of the wind recorded for army and Royal Air Force.

71. On the trail of the submarine. With the advent of American troops in France, Germany concentrated her U boats on the transport ships carrying American troops overseas. The means adopted to protect them were many and varied. The observation balloon on board a U.S. battleship was one idea that was highly successful.

72. How the weather hindered the advance. The photograph illustrates the difficulty of movement when the weather broke down. Shell-holes were converted into miniature lakes, and, but for the duck-boards leading to the front line trenches, men floundered as in a morass. Many, unfortunately, who fell were swallowed up in the mud, and had to be counted among those posted under the tragic word ‘missing’.

73. Landing of the British troops at Salonika. Many of the troops evacuated from Gallipoli were transferred to Salonika, and with this transference a new phase of the war began. It marked the entry of the British troops into the Balkan theatre of war.

74. The damage done to Cambrai Cathedral.

75. Awaiting the attack. This remarkable photograph of an actual attack by the Germans was taken near Ypres, and shows the British trenches manned by the King’s Liverpool Regiment, with bayonets fixed ready for the charge.

76. Our supremacy of the air. A Scouting Squadron of eighteen machines ready to ‘take off’ on a reconnaissance over the German lines. British machines and British pilots, no less than British pluck, wrested the initial advantage from the Germans which they undoubtedly possessed in the first two years of the war, and so completely eclipsed their aerial efforts that hardly a German plane latterly ventured across the British lines.

77. A captured German trench. The grim horrors of war are here shown in all their naked reality. The elaborately planned German defences were battered beyond measure and rendered useless as places of safety by our artillery, many of the Germans surrendered, leaving the inevitable dead, the only occupants of their former habitation.

78. Consolidating a captured position. Not the least important part of ‘consolidating’ a captured position, after it has been held, is that of ‘cleaning up’ and making it habitable after the evacuation of the Boche.

79. The Italian army on the march. The Italians are here seen negotiating a mountain track, hauling their field artillery by man-power to the higher regions of the Carnia, on the Northern Italian front.

80. War among the eternal snows. An Italian fort on the snow-capped peaks of Mount Adamello. The stupendous difficulties that had to be overcome by the Italian army were but little understood in Britain. Infantry and artillery were firmly entrenched on mountain fastnesses formerly known only to the intrepid alpinist.


Plates retained in order in which they were received.

Conditions Governing Access

Access is available by prior appointment, during 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday.

Conditions Governing Use

In copyright until 2020.

Appraisal Information

Both pamphlets are damaged in different places, retaining two copies allows for full information to be retained.

Custodial History

Donated by David Phillips on 5 August 2016, ownership transferred. Documents were inherited from his grandfather, who joined the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in 1915/16.

Related Material

William Stanley Macbean Knight (1869-1950), The history of the great European war: its causes and effects, assisted by eminent naval and military experts. London: Caxton Pub. Co. 1914-1920. 10 vols.