Somme100: Picturing the Battle of the Somme in 1916

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A century ago the first news stories relating to the Battle of the Somme began to appear in the British press. There was little awareness at this stage of the huge scale of losses on 1st July 1916, nor that the attack had been a failure except in some limited areas.

Illustrating the kicking of Billie Neville's footballs on 1st July 1916.

Illustrating the kicking of Billie Neville’s footballs on 1st July 1916.

But the press were already busy giving the story of the battle a positive spin. The Illustrated London News was a broadsheet size illustrated magazine with in-house artists who depicted the battle in contemporary drawings when at this stage largely no photographs were available.

Indian Cavalry at High Wood

Indian Cavalry at High Wood

These illustrations depict the bravery of the British soldier on the battlefield, and while they are propaganda they are well observed with details of uniforms and equipment all correct: in some respect that was a vital factor in them being believable.One hundred years later these images are part of the history themselves but they give a fascinating insight into how the Somme was depicted at the time.

 

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