Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Photos of the Dead

By Tony Langley

Contrary to modern myth, during the war itself, many photographs of the dead were published in news magazines in all the warring countries. There are some general trends that are evident, however. British news editors were apparently not so keen as their French allies to show great numbers of dead soldiers. An occasional corpse or two was quite sufficient for the staid Englishman, say, a dead sniper who had got his just deserts, or an unlucky Hun who had bitten the dust. 

French news editors, on the other hand, seemed to positively delight in showing photographs of Boche corpses, the more the better. Many of the working-class news magazines such as Le Miroir, J'ai Vu, or Sur le Vif printed quite grisly scenes at times, trenches full of slain Germans or heaps of enemy bodies piled up for burial after a battle. Even illustrious magazines such as L'Illustration had no qualms about showing photos of the enemy dead or of executed "spies" and Le Pays de France, a solid and otherwise respectable magazine, appears to have published more photos of dead German corpses than of their live British allies. Here are three images from the French magazine Le Miroir:


  1. That's a fascinating national difference.

    How did the other powers handle photographs of the dead?

  2. The "Glorious Dead" in not so glorious repose... War is a dying business too late the hero... But only the dead, have seen the end of war.