This is a collection of photographs of First World War battle fields along the Western Front as they are today. Chemin des Dames, Hartmannswillerkopf, the Marne, Passchendaele, Somme, Verdun and Ypres and so many other fields of battle are synonymous with the horror and suffering of the first mechanized war. But that was almost a century ago and today that landscape, still full of memories and the "cities of the silent dead", has recovered much of its former tranquillity and peace as predicted by one young soldier surveying the devastation shortly after the Armistice in November 1918:
“They were everywhere...
No, they would not be lonely, there were too many of them. I saw that bare country before me...the miles and miles of torn earth, the barbed wire, the litter, the dead trees. But the country would come back to life, the grass would grow again, the wild flowers return, and trees where now there were only splintered skeleton stumps.
They would lie still and at peace below the singing larks, beside the serenely flowing rivers. They could not feel lonely, they would have one another. And they would have us also, though we were going home and leaving them behind. We belonged to them, and they would be a part of us for ever.” ( Capt P J Cambell. RFA. )
These photographs are a reflection upon those words and all the crowded memories which these "battlescapes" still evoke almost a century later.
Mike St Maur Sheil - 2016