Title: Photographing the Fallen: A War Graves Photographer on the Western Front 1915-1919
Author: Jeremy Gordon-Smith
Media: hardcover, 302 pages
Item Code: PNS317
Link to website
Ivan Bawtree worked for Kodak as a photographer and technician before the Great War. He joined the Red Cross in 1915 as part of the newly-formed Graves Registration Unit (GRU) and went to Ypres to photograph war graves of fallen soldiers on behalf of grieving relatives and the Imperial War Graves Commission (IWGC). Ivan and two other photographers travelled around by motorcycle, photographing graves and other subjects, until he was demobilized in October 1919.
His huge collection of negatives, surviving diaries and letters, has enabled the author to produce a fascinating biography of his great-great-uncle, and of the GRU. The book offers a biography of Bawtree, an overview of his time in France and Belgium and a history of the formation of the GRU.
Through his diary and photographs we gain detailed insight not just into the work he did, and the men he worked with, but also aspects of the military zones, the perils of proximity to the Front Line, the devastation of war, and the birth and early work of the Imperial War Graves Commission.
It is copiously illustrated with original photographs reproduced in dark sepia interspersed with the author’s own colour photographs, some merged to show a combined ‘then and now’ image. Overall this is an interesting book about a little-known aspect of the Western Front and about the people who recorded it. Today, the war cemeteries that Ivan saw spring up across battle-scarred landscapes provide the most widespread and enduring reminder of the scale of loss and sacrifice of the Great War.
Glossary of Abbreviations
1. Journey to the Western Front
2. The Graves Registration Unit
3. Digs and Darkrooms
4. Shellfire and Shrapnel
5. The Cemeteries: Then and Now
6. The Grief of a Nation
7. The War Ends, the Work Continues
8. The Imperial War Graves Commission
9. Exploring the Western Front
10. Ypres: From Ruins to Restoration
11. Back to Blighty and Beyond