THIEPVAL MEMORIAL GRAVESTONES: The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Battle of the Somme bears the names of more than 72,000 men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme and have no known grave. Over 90% of those named on the memorial died between July and November 1916. Standing in front of the giant Thiepval Memorial is an Anglo-French tribute that consists of 300 British Commonwealth and 300 French graves. The British Commonwealth graves are marked with rectangular headstones in white stone. On the British headstones is the inscription “A Soldier of the Great War / Known unto God.” The French graves have grey stone crosses. The French crosses bear the single word “Inconnu” (‘unknown’). The cemetery’s Cross of Sacrifice bears the following inscription: “That the world may remember the common sacrifice of two and a half million dead, here have been laid side by side Soldiers of France and of the British Empire in eternal comradeship.”
Shot handheld with a Nikon D40X, Nikkor 18-2oo lens at f14, 1/250 sec., ISO 1600. Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
VIMY RIDGE MEMORIAL, FRANCE: April 9, 2012 is the 95th anniversary of the start of the battle of Vimy Ridge. It was the first time that Canadians would fight together under Canadian command. It is, for many, ‘when Canada became a country’. The Canadians were given an almost impossible task. French and British attempts to take the ridge had failed. In the course of the next six days, 3,598 Canadians would die and another 7,000 were injured. The highest point on the battlefield was Hill 145. That is where Canada’s Vimy Ridge Memorial now stands. In 1922, the French government gave the Hill and its surrounding to territory to Canada, in appreciation for defeating the Germans in one of the pivotal battles of World War One. Every Canadian should visit the Memorial at least once in their lives, in tribute to the terrible losses that day and in recognition of a defining moment in Canada’s history.
Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
THIEPVAL BRITISH MEMORIAL, THIEPVAL, PICARDIE, FRANCE: Britain’s largest World War I memorial is found in northern France near Thiepval in Picardie. The structure was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Started in 1928, it was completed in four years and inaugurated by the Prince of Wales on July 31st 1932. The battlefield monument required extensive reinforcement to its foundations due to war-time tunneling. The memorial is reserved for missing or unidentified soldiers with no known grave. The Portland Stone piers bear the names of over 72,000 men lost in the Somme battles. Visitors may wonder why there are gaps in the stone between some names. This is because the names of soldiers whose graves were subsequently found are removed from the memorial.
April 17th is an important date in World War I history, so the date of this post is no coincidence. April 17, 1915 was the date of the British assault on Hill 60 when the Brits blew up several mines under German positions. It served as a turning point and was the prelude to the Second Battle of Ypres. This is also the date of the arrival of the 1st Canadian Division in France. On French soil for just five days, the Canadians were moved to the front lines where they found themselves in the biggest defensive fight to that point by Canadian troops. April 17, 1917 is also a momentous if not ignominious date for the French. After France’s disastrous Nivelle Offensive, French infantry started to mutiny in protest of the military leadership and trench conditions. By the time the mutinies subsided several months later, over 35,000 soldiers were found to be involved with 68 out of 112 French divisions affected. Fewer than 3,000 men were punished.
Shot handheld with a Nikon D300, with a Nikkor AF-S 16-85mm lens at 20mm, f25, 1/400th second, ISO 2000. Photo by John Ecker | Pantheon Photography
5 RED TELEPHONE BOOTHS, LONDON, ENGLAND: Red public telephones in London are ubiquitous. But as long-time travelers know, their ranks are diminishing due to the explosion of cell-phone use. The booths in this photo are located on Broad Street. The origin of these icons was a 1924 design competition. The basic look was updated over the years, including significant improvements in 1929 and 1934. In 1935, to celebrate the silver jubilee of King George V, thousands of the red boxes were placed throughout Britain. It’s hard to imagine them in any other colour but there was widespread opposition to the bright scheme. The 1959 version introduced an even brighter red and it went on to be the standard colour. The classic British booth has even been exported for use in Malta and Cyprus. In Washington, DC, a red booth sits outside the British Embassy. Today, stop by virtually any booth in London and you’ll see it festooned with business cards for escort services. How long will the iconic booths last? Well, when was the last time you actually used a phone booth to make a call?
Shot handheld with a Nikon D70s, AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm lens at 48mm, f9, 1/320 sec. Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography