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WW1 Photos Centenary Website: 2014-2018 By Paul Reed

Indian Army

With The 5th Royal Scots at Gallipoli

06 December 2005 (5) edited

These images come from an album compiled by an officer of the 1/5th Battalion Royal Scots who survived the war. He fought with this unit as part of the 29th Division in Gallipoli, the 1/5th being one of a number of Territorial units attached to what was a regular division. Against orders the officer had packed a camera into his kit and took a number of shots of life at both Cape Helles and ANZAC where the battalion fought, as well as during training in Egypt.

It is hard to believe when looking at the photo above that this is an officer of the battalion; to say he is dressed casually is an understatement but it gives a good insight into how the heat and conditions at Gallipoli forced the British soldiers who fought there to have a complete rethink. Behind him is the dugout occupied by the officers of his company.

Below another officer of the battalion talks to Indian labourers attached to the unit to carry out labouring tasks close to the battlefield; this may have been anything from carrying up ammunition, food or water, to assisting in trench and dugout construction or repair.

There were no official photographers at Gallipoli so we rely on illicit collections like these for our visual insights into the campaign; given the number of such albums known to exist, this officer of the Royal Scots was far from unique but his photos are perhaps the only pictorial record of the Royal Scots in the Gallipoli campaign.

06 December 2005 (16) edited

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Fed Up in Mespot 1916

This image comes from an album owned by an officer of the Army Service Corps who was attached to one of the Indian Divisions in France 1914/15 and then in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) for the remainder of the war. Although private cameras were prohibited by the British Army this was a generation for which personal photography was in its infancy and the number of private albums I have come across indicates that many flouted the ruling. This particular officer took about 150 images while on active service showing some unique insights into service in two theatres of war and had them printed onto high quality paper and placed in an album. Sadly he forgot to caption them, but over the years I have been able to identify many of the locations; and images from the album will feature in future posts.

This particular image shows an Indian soldier fatigued by active service sat catching a short sleep near his charges, two mules who are pulling a British water cart. Water was a vital commodity in Mesopotamia – ‘Mespot’ to the troops – where the heat and lack of safe water supply meant that any clean water was in some respects as valuable as the munitions needed to feed the guns. Temperatures could rise above 120 degrees in the desert and to give an indication of the problem of sickness caused by issues like bad water  more than 12,000 died of disease in Mespot during the war. The water cart in the picture could hold 120 gallons of water, which although sounds like a lot, the two mules would need 6-8 gallons each per day. It had its own filtration system and in terms of the technology of the day was quite an advanced piece of kit.

Like the best of images it is an informal shot and captures a moment in time giving us an insight into life in a sometimes forgotten Theatre of War