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About this collection

The images presented in this collection are from a set of two World War One sketchbooks archived in the University of Victoria Special Collections and University Archives. They contain water-colour and pen and ink images which were produced by a British soldier based in France and Belgium between 1917 and 1918.

 

Artist: According to the dedication contained in Book 1, the artist bound the images into two sketchbooks and presented them to his daughter, Adele, sometime after the 1918 Armistice. Unfortunately we know little more about him than what appears on this dedication page. However based on that information, and on the dates of the images themselves, we do know that:

  • he was a member of the Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery (the regimental crest and motto appear at the top of the page);
  • he was based in France and Belgium (specifically around Ypres and Menin) between 1917-1918;
  • his daughter's name was Adele;
  • he survived the war (one of the images is dated 1920);
  • his initials were J.M.

Content: Most of the locations he mentions are in or around Ypres and Menin. However they range from Nieppe and Mt. des Cats in France and as far eastward as Moorseele and Gulleghem Belgium.

Although one or two images date from the end of the war, most appear to have been painted at the Front between 1917 and 1918.

Among the collection's most interesting images are several caricatures that poke fun at both Britain's elite and its class structure. Military leaders and the War Office also come in for a good deal of ridicule. As a group these comic images tell us a great deal about, at least this soldier's, attitudes towards social class, authority, tradition, and the army during the war.

In addition, there are a variety of somber images suggesting the horror and carnage experienced by those at the Front. Among these images are depictions of trenches, dressing stations, and horses dying of gas and the damaged landscape of the battlefield.

Religion also figures prominently in the collection. Several images of crucifixes remind us of the tremendous loss and need for solace experienced by those at the Front, while a few poke fun at the posturing of the Church Army.

 

Image: "The Little Grey Home in the Wet" (JM Vol. 1, Page 44)

 
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