Lost in a landscape: Ditchingham – an eye for an eye

Ditchingham sits just North of the Norfolk Suffolk Border. It is to all intents and purposes a suburb of Bungay albeit in a different county and on the other side of a main road. The town and its satellite village sit on the edge of the gentle...

Shot at Dawn: John Abigail

John Abigail; A local lad, local to anyone in Norwich It's a longer story than I can write, and a sad tale too. Born in Thorpe Hamlet, they moved to Oak Street shortly before the outbreak of The Great War. John was one of eight children, the family...

Trench Fever

I thought it was about time I did a bit of quantifying, I've done a something in a previous piece here, which scratches at the back of a story but only tells the penultimate episode of it not the rest, there's other bits clanging and banging about...

Cambridge – persistence of memory

My mum grew up here. Her and my ancestors were here for hundreds of years working as maids and cleaners, labourers, cartmen and brickies, laying the railways, further back pulling the root veg through the surface of the peaty soils to the north or...

Vanishing Point: The Redoubt

There are areas of the Somme where you can really feel the past; where the landscape whilst modified hasn't been essentially changed. This is one of those places. What remains isn't difficult to spot and is easy to get too a walk down a grass...

Vanishing Point: Thiepval

72,191 names. Rising up as it does above the trees on the Thiepval ridge on the Somme, it is by turns a beautiful, vast and horrifying edifice of brick and stone, coloured like blood and bone. A list, a huge frightening and sobering list. The...

Vanishing Point: Bernafay Wood

After Carnoy the cloud started to drop, a shield of it obliterated the sun. Within twenty minutes the light had almost completely failed, the air filled with prickles of moisture. It took a good hour to lift as the edge of a small front slid in...

Vanishing Point: The Ridge

It's quite an apposite moment, the ridge being what it is, a symbol of so much thrashing about in the earth trying to gain a foothold, somewhere that looms large in Canada's psyche and it's nearly Canada Day, a day that symbolises so much about the...

WW1: Trench Ghosts Part 2

Part 2 in a series of an uncertain number of these things. There's no project like an open ended one... St Eloi 1915 St Eloi is just to the South East of Ypres on the Salient, not that far from Hellfire Corner, or Hellfire Roundabout as it is now....

WW1 Aerial photos in colour: Messines

You start to doubt your sanity slightly when you spend an hour colouring in a photo brown that was, erm, brown, well sepia, but I've also tried to pull the detail out a bit as well. This is Messines Just to the South East of Ypres, This was taken...

Vanishing Point – Langemark

Langemark is I feel one of the most desolate corners of the Western front. As I mentioned in another piece on Vladslo there is something so desperately bleak and sad about German cemeteries. They don't lack in any of the respectfulness of the loss...

Vanishing Point: Essex Farm, The Eve brothers

I'm fortunate, I get to go to Ypres and the Somme and indeed various other bits of the Western Front fairly often, I do it mostly for my own vicarious pleasure/misery or whatever you find you want to call it. If I face facts it is I suppose a...

Vanishing Point: Stumbling through Ploegsteert

I'm a virtual veteran of two world wars, one in particular; The Great War, the one to end all thingummys... as an anomalous title for a war as there could possibly be. That aside I do a lot of, or as much as I can afford and fit into life without...

Vanishing Point: Flatiron Copse

There are parts of the Somme where you can and do suddenly feel remarkably isolated in the sun, bits around Serre in the tractor tyre marks and up on the swallowing heights of Redan Ridge with the wind and the larks. For me Mametz is one of the...

Vanishing Point: Rosebeke

A strange day. I've been working very loosely on an ongoing project called 'Vanishing Points' for a while. I'm a bit of a fan of VPs, lots of artists are as a way of leading the eye into compositions, focussing the viewers...

Lost boys: Sid Northrop

I recently rediscovered this. It was something I'd put on Flickr. It is the tale of another family member and his last few days and hours in the Great War. We visited the panel he is remembered on at Tyne Cot a couple of years ago. He was my...

Vanishing point: Guillemont, Trones and Jünger’s Lane.

It suddenly struck me yesterday, what I'm trying to finish the unfinishable. The Great War may have ended in 1918, but it didn't, and so it goes, new layers of images, understanding and history being laid down with every word typed and shutter...

Vanishing Point: Mash Valley and Ovillers

The Somme is exceptionally beautiful. For me a landscape that feels like home. It is chalk downland, when you get up onto the solitary heights of the Redan Ridge or the plateau where Thiepval sits is feels so similar to parts to the South Downs....

WW1: Aerial Trench Ghosts Part 3 – Lens

Someone asked if I'd done any Loos aerials, I hadn't, it's not an area I'm hugely familiar with, it does tend to get forgotten in between all the noise about the Battle of the Somme and The Ypres Salient. There's plenty of front in between and some...

Ghosts: Ypres in the Great War

This is an ongoing series of Ghosts that I tend to do on an as and when I'm in the right areas to do them and can find where they were taken. The difficulty being the extend of the damage to the front and the 100 years mean sometimes it's difficult...

Great War: Blinded

A set of six postcards produced by the National Institute of the Blind, now RNIB for St Dunstans in Regent's Park. These were fundraisers for the trust. A slightly mawkish view of something fairly horrific, but then how do you honestly portray...

Aerial ghosts: Messines updated

I had a very interesting email today from Gil Bossuyt of frontaaltours.com which has prompted this post. Gil has been looking at the image I originally colourised in this piece. It goes thus: "I went searching on trench maps to recognize some road...

Vanishing Points: Tyne Cot

If and when you visit the Western Front, which a huge and growing number of people do partly because of the centenary and partly because you know, corner of a foreign field and all that family stuff, you are entering a piece of ground that is...

Vanishing Point: Carnoy to Montauban

I'm not far from here now. Sitting in a hotel room on a laptop, watching a dubbed film which was bad enough in English in the first place. So I thought I'd start work. Carnoy is just to the South West of Albert in the Somme region, maybe five miles...

Here are the young men

I've been rescuing these boys from Junk shops for years, those 50p unknowns, the Great Uncles who maybe died and had no children, they become orphaned from their families, so I've ended up with an old biscuit tin full of these lads. Mostly Brits,...

WW1 Aerial photos in colour: Water filled shell holes

I'm not sure where this is as I found it, it could be almost anywhere on the front at various times, a watery landscape where trenches are merely shell holes joined together, It could be Chateau Wood, it could be near Passchendaele or Hooge or...

Found photos: The lost boys of Cromer

I go through people's leftovers, their old clothes, the maps of lines on their faces, sit in their seats and eat from their plates; strangers' stuff. They are people I can't know nor ever will in the vast majority of cases, nearly all of them are...

Vanishing Point: High Wood

The way to start these things is difficult sometimes so here is a Piece of Mackintosh, not perhaps his best poem, but he can sum up the general situation in the area of High Wood better than I can. He knows what it was like because he was there in...

Jagger Swagger

All cities are full of nexus points, the crossings of networks of roads that run the city. Because most of our major ant colonies grow irregularly, they form and coalesce around point sin the landscape and those points shift and change over time,...

Great War: Verdun in postcards

Fort Vaux - Artillery observation post. A century on from events. These are in fact a post-war set of tourist cards I bought as part of an album at a flea market in France.  These are basically Verdun through a lens from some time after everything...

Football, Xmas, WW1 & misinformation

  This is a photo of Officers and men of 26th Divisional Ammunition Train playing football in Salonika, Greece on Christmas day 1915. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the Christmas Truce of 1914 at all, in any way whatsoever, so I'm sticking it...

Vanishing Point: Out of sight

Genealogy is an inconsistent science and growing a family tree quickly becomes an obsessive work of semi-fictional detective work. The urge to push further and further backward heading into our peasant laden past, hankering after the occasional...

Vanishing Points

Landscapes of the Western Front

Vanishing Point: Dartmoor – father and son

There's a focus, out there. You'll see it in most cemeteries on the old front. The famous dead, the men, and boys who achieve some infamy by dint of their bravery, age or circumstances. Sometimes it's a footballer who scored big in 1912 before signing away four years,...

Vanishing Point: Bernafay Wood

After Carnoy the cloud started to drop, a shield of it obliterated the sun. Within twenty minutes the light had almost completely failed, the air filled with prickles of moisture. It took a good hour to lift as the edge of a small front slid in from the South West. It...

Vanishing point: Courcelette

I've been fortunate at times out on the front, walking the levelled trenches, across the flattened shell holes and in the regrown woods. You meet people, some you know via the curious world of social media, shared interests in a shared space eventually made flesh out...

Vanishing point: Guillemont, Trones and Jünger’s Lane.

It suddenly struck me yesterday, what I'm trying to finish the unfinishable. The Great War may have ended in 1918, but it didn't, and so it goes, new layers of images, understanding and history being laid down with every word typed and shutter click. I'd set various...

Vanishing Point: Carnoy to Montauban

I'm not far from here now. Sitting in a hotel room on a laptop, watching a dubbed film which was bad enough in English in the first place. So I thought I'd start work. Carnoy is just to the South West of Albert in the Somme region, maybe five miles from the town. It...

Lost boys: Sid Northrop

I recently rediscovered this. It was something I'd put on Flickr. It is the tale of another family member and his last few days and hours in the Great War. We visited the panel he is remembered on at Tyne Cot a couple of years ago. He was my grandmother Jesse Parr's...

Vanishing points: The Bull Ring, Etaples

Etaples was one of the main base camps along the coast of Northern France, being a port, a lot of men, thousands of them would have disembarked here. Many more would have embarked. It was known as "The Bullring", as were most of the base camps, but this one was the...

Vanishing Point: Out of sight

Genealogy is an inconsistent science and growing a family tree quickly becomes an obsessive work of semi-fictional detective work. The urge to push further and further backward heading into our peasant laden past, hankering after the occasional sight of a king or...

Vanishing Point – Langemark

Langemark is I feel one of the most desolate corners of the Western front. As I mentioned in another piece on Vladslo there is something so desperately bleak and sad about German cemeteries. They don't lack in any of the respectfulness of the loss or the death or the...

Vanishing Point: Devil’s Wood

Oak is a feature of the English psyche, a fabled national wood if there is such a thing. It proliferates throughout our history from warships and traders building an Empire to the familiar furniture and ancient twisting house frames. The royal Oak subverted to shelter...

Vanishing Point: High Wood

The way to start these things is difficult sometimes so here is a Piece of Mackintosh, not perhaps his best poem, but he can sum up the general situation in the area of High Wood better than I can. He knows what it was like because he was there in 1915 and wounded...

Vanishing Point: Fricourt New

The best and the worst of it all are hidden over a brow. You won't find the chattering crowds of the nexus points where death draws itself to a peak, this is not Thiepval or the Menin Gate. Nobody talks, no one sniggers, there is no rustle of frite wrapper when a hush...

The Great War

The Wilderspins

Suffolk regiment - Thiepval memorial. I just thought it was worth recording this little collection of grief, rolled down through 100 years, a whole family and one friend all commemorated at Thiepval, under the Suffolk Regiment's Panel. Whenever you go to any of the...

Cambridge – persistence of memory

My mum grew up here. Her and my ancestors were here for hundreds of years working as maids and cleaners, labourers, cartmen and brickies, laying the railways, further back pulling the root veg through the surface of the peaty soils to the north or tending beans and...

Trench Ghosts part 4

Langemark A few trench ghosts I did last week then got distracted and forgot about. One of Langemark and one of the Sugarloaf salient at Fromelles. The Langemark rephoto leaps out straight away. It's also familiar to anyone that's ever visited the German cemetery...

Aerial ghosts: Messines updated

I had a very interesting email today from Gil Bossuyt of frontaaltours.com which has prompted this post. Gil has been looking at the image I originally colourised in this piece. It goes thus: "I went searching on trench maps to recognize some road structures, and...

WW1: Aerial Trench Ghosts Part 3 – Lens

Someone asked if I'd done any Loos aerials, I hadn't, it's not an area I'm hugely familiar with, it does tend to get forgotten in between all the noise about the Battle of the Somme and The Ypres Salient. There's plenty of front in between and some of it was very hard...

Great War: Verdun in postcards

Fort Vaux - Artillery observation post. A century on from events. These are in fact a post-war set of tourist cards I bought as part of an album at a flea market in France.  These are basically Verdun through a lens from some time after everything had been tidied up....

Great War: Blinded

A set of six postcards produced by the National Institute of the Blind, now RNIB for St Dunstans in Regent's Park. These were fundraisers for the trust. A slightly mawkish view of something fairly horrific, but then how do you honestly portray being blinded, not an...

Join hands: Poppy day.

I am afraid I am heartily sick of poppies. I was in Ypres in the late summer of 2014 and started to write something about what the centenary of the war meant and how it was making me feel. It was the week the commemoration started for real, the end of the phoney war....

Lost in a landscape: Ditchingham – an eye for an eye

Ditchingham sits just North of the Norfolk Suffolk Border. It is to all intents and purposes a suburb of Bungay albeit in a different county and on the other side of a main road. The town and its satellite village sit on the edge of the gentle yawning line that forms...