The Western Front

The Western Front

Battlefields, Memorials and Cemeteries of the First World War

By Marcel Belley

Uniform Press, 2017

There is something about the memorials and cemeteries of the First World War that lend themselves to being photographed. Whether it is the endless rows of white headstones filling the field of view or a memorial set against a clear blue sky, pictures of these sites have the capacity to stir emotions and always prove very popular when posted on social media.

They are of course also a huge draw to the battlefield ‘tourist’, visiting the cemeteries and memorials in search of more knowledge and understanding about the war, as well as the perfect picture to capture what has been seen. This book is a collection of such photographs from the author’s visits to the sites along the length of the western front.

The chapters cover battlefields, British memorials, Dominion memorials, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, France and Belgium, the United States, Germany, French town memorials, and the weapons of war. Each chapter has a short introduction but otherwise the text is minimal, except for a couple of lines caption for each photograph.

The author certainly has an eye for a good photograph and composition, and many of the photographs are stunning. In particular he has focused in on some of the details of the memorials that may pass unnoticed at a casual glance. In viewing the memorials of the various countries, although it is not explicitly referred to in the book, the very different visual aesthetics and messages that come across in the form and features of the memorials is apparent. I was particularly interested in the pictures of the French and US memorials, having not visited many of these sites.

This is a lovely ‘coffee table’ book; one that you are unlikely to learn much about the war from, but if you enjoy looking at stunning pictures of the memorials and cemeteries of the war, you will no doubt be impressed.

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The Western Front: Battlefields, Memorials and Cemeteries of the First World War