World War One official British photographs
These photographs form part of the papers of Field Marshal (Earl) Haig (1861-1928), held by the National Library of Scotland. More information is available from the Library's Digital Archive.

Like many World War I generals, Haig remains a controversial figure. The collection contains diaries, papers and photographs from every part of Haig’s career, the Great War diaries being of special importance to historians.

Photographs in the "Official Photographs" series (which were destined for publication and have captions on the back describing the image) are in black-and-white. World War I saw the development of a system of 'official’ reporting by professionals especially recruited into the forces. Initially reluctant to allow cameras near the fighting, it took some time for the authorities to appreciate the propaganda and recording potential of photography.

These photographs provide us with an invaluable record of how the Government and Military wanted the war perceived. Official photographers were encouraged to record morale-boosting scenes of victory and comradeship. Despite the restrictions placed on them, official war photographers succeeded in giving the most comprehensive visual account of the war. It is important to remember that these images were propaganda; few that could depict the war in a disheartening or disconcerting way passed the censors. As a result the photograph taken was often posed. They were intended to reassure those at home and boost morale. They were printed in newspapers, and were intended to confirm that 'Tommy' was winning the war.

Unless otherwise stated, titles are from the photographs' original captions. Headings (in block capitals), captions and part references, all written in pencil, are generally on the back of each original. “Western Front”, mentioned in many of the headings, refers to a narrow border of land between Belgium and France where the Allies dug trenches from the North Sea to the Swiss Frontier, i.e. the fighting zone in France and Flanders, where the British, French, Belgian and later American Armies faced that of Germany. For three years, neither side advanced more than a few miles along this line.
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