The Great War Centenary

100 Years have now passed since the start of the Great War in 1914. A war to end all wars, it sadly was not to be; with many millions of people, an estimated 16 Million, both military and civilian perishing during the conflict.

100 Years represents many generations and thus a distancing from the horrors of being involved in such an event. Much modern day conflict is localised, and very specific in location. The Great War simply engulfed Europe and as with World War 2 no civilian could escape it’s effects. This gave many a story to be told by those affected within a war surrounding. My grandparents would reminisce about life as children during WW1 and then their own contribution during WW2. As one of my Great Grandfathers had died in France during WW1 our family had, as many others did, lost a future head of family. Both my Granddads saw action during WW2 and were lucky enough to live and tell such tales to at least one interested Grandson. That interested Grandson who listened intently to those stories of war signed up to H.M.Forces himself, saw live action, served in hostile environments and now sits writing this blog cherishing a life others never had the chance to live.

This image represents a continuance of the thoughts, which resulted in my images from the Eden Camp Shoot earlier this year. Those initial images were my way of a small gesture of thanks to the not so mentioned ladies of the Great War and their huge contribution to the effort and sacrifice given.

I had also decided to create a studio image of my daughter holding a poppy as a final image representing or reflecting upon World War One. Teachers have not, and will not, discuss the war at her school, and I felt that discussing the symbolism of the poppy whilst we conducted a shoot might be of enlightenment to her.

I allowed my daughter to choose the poppy, growing wild in fields near to our house, that we would use for the shoot. Once back in the studio we were discussing war, as an 8 year old would, and I was quite taken with her questions and understanding on the subject. When it came to the scale of horror and death this is where she fell down.

My daughter asked me how many people had died; I had replied a lot of people and continued adjusting lighting and taking the odd image. My daughter then placed a figure on the deaths with a comment of “More than ten Daddy?”. I had replied with a rather muttered and ambiguous “Many more” comment to which she replied “More than one hundred?” My simple reply of “Yes” seemed to place her in thought and she went quiet. Ready to shoot and with an agreed pose by my daughter I began to capture images of her. Minor direction to the position of her hands and things appeared to be going well until a single tear formed in her eye and rolled down her cheek. I took the picture, I don’t know why but I just did. Should I have discarded my camera and hugged her or asked what the problem was, possibly, but I took the shot. An incredibly powerful moment for my daughter as the concept of war, its horrors, misery and ultimate sacrifice dawned within her youthful carefree conscience. A tear for the fallen or a tear for humanity only she will know though her statement of horror at that amount of deaths, within her concept of numbers, speaks volumes itself. My camera was immediately discarded after this image had been captured and the shoot abandoned.

My decision to add the poem “Flanders Fields” by Major John McCrae was one that I felt appropriate in the circumstances. A direct connection to the Great War and complimenting the Poppy that Chloe was holding. I chose the typeface colour by simply colour picking a leaf of the poppy.

I also chose two additional images, for reduced opacity within the primary image, to add depth. One is of the war graves at the Flanders Fields memorial site and the second is an image of soldiers walking across no mans land during WW1.

As a final touch I added the “1914-2014 lest we forget” wording to the base of the image. This hopefully makes the purpose of this image obvious to even the most ignorant within society.

I would now like to thank my Great Grandfather, William Ernest Cropper, my wife’s Great Grandfather, John Henry Gill and the estimated 16 Million others who gave the ultimate sacrifice during that war so that we could be free.

 William Ernest Cropper

Died – 28th May 1917 & buried in Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux, France.


John Henry Gill

Died – 29th April 1918, during heavy bombardment, with no remains found.

A plaque is placed in Tyne Cot memorial, France.

And my image….



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