WW1 Photos Centenary Website: 2014-2018 By Paul Reed


Winter War: Snowy Trench in the Argonne 1915

The Argonne Forest lies between the battlefields of the Champagne east of Reims and the ground at Verdun. The fighting here in 1914 established the lines around the forested area of the Argonne, where it would remain for much of the rest of the war. Still a forested area, it contains to this day much evidence of the war with trench lines still visible in many places.

This German image dates from the winter of 1915/16 and shows a well constructed trench in the Argonne Forest, where a lone German officer looks out across the snow. The lack of damage and the fact that he has no problem about popping his head above the parapet would indicate this was a reserve trench line, some distance back from the actual battlefield. Much of these reserve lines in the Argonne were finally taken by American troops in the final battles of the autumn of 1918.

I Had A Comrade: German Burial in the Argonne

This image is taken in the Argonne region of France and shows an unnamed German cemetery set on the slope of a hill or a small ravine. A group of German soldiers are burying a comrade who has recently fallen on the field of battle. The men stand round the grave while an officer uses an entrenching tool to cast in some earth. It is an unusual photograph in many ways and one wonders who the fallen soldier was?

At such services the German soldiers would sing Ich Hatt’ Einen Kameraden – in some ways the German equivalent of The Last Post. The English translation of the song reads:

I once had a comrade,
you won’t find a better one.
The drum was rolling for battle,
he was marching by my side
in the same pace and stride.

A bullet flew towards us
meant for you or for me?
It did tear him away,
he lies at my feet
like he was a part of me.

He wants to reach his hand to me,
while I’m just reloading my gun.
“Can’t give you my hand for now,
you rest in eternal life
My good comrade!”