Thomas Eckert

< writing /


28 SEPT 2017
02
ROCHESTER, NY

Images of the Western Front


In May of 2015, I had the opportunity to take a course on World War I in London and on the Western Front. Prior to the class, I took time to travel around Normandy with my grandfather. As part of this trip, we went to the Omaha Beach D-Day Memorial. The museum itself was beautiful and respectful. Walking around the cemetery and on the beach, I felt compelled to capture the moment with a camera.

The figure of liberty commanding her sons to go to war.

The figure of heaven comforting those lost in battle.

During the class, we biked along the Western Front, starting from Lille, France.

This is a bunker where a young Hitler once stood guard in Flanders.

In Ypres, the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing holds the names of 54,395 soldiers of the Commonwealth who fought in the Ypres Salient, but whose bodies were never identified. It is supposed that all of them must have passed through the point where the monument is constructed, down the Menin Road to the front lines. The monument does not hold the names of all unidentified soldiers as it is not large enough so the list is continued at the nearby Tyne Cot Memorial.

During the War, the city was evacuated and became the home of soldiers and firefighters. After the dedication of the monuments, the firefighters in the city began a tradition of paying respects in a nightly ceremony to an individual named on the Gate by calling the last post.

In German war cemeteries, all bodies are buried in mass graves. This is supposed to signify the the importance of the collective state above the individual.

This is the only headstone in Europe commemorating a WWI soldier from Japan. It reads

Second Lieutenant
Arthur Conway Young
Royal Irish Fusiliers
16th August 1917

Born at Kobe, Japan
9th October 1890
Sacrified to the Fallacy
that war can end war

The Tyne Cot Memorial Cemetery overlooks the fields of Flanders that John McCrae wrote about.

There is an art to reading the architecture of WWI memorial sites. One thing to note is that headstones placed flush against each other memorialize soldiers whose bodies were killed by, most commonly, a large blast such that their body parts could not be uniquely identified and are buried together. If the headstones are in a circle, this represents the same kind of catastrophe, but usually on a scale of dozens.