Just after Remembrance Day comes Fields of Battle—Lands of Peace 14-18 the work of photojournalist Michael St Maur Sheil. Captured over a period of seven years, Michael’s photography combines a passion for history and landscape and presents a unique reflection on the transformation of the battlefields of the Great War into the landscape of modern Europe.
Here are just a few of his images
Lochnagar Crater is one of the iconic remnants of the Somme battlefield and just as in the war, one can really only appreciate its true scale from the air. Created by British tunnellers who dug a 600m (0.37 miles)tunnel to reach a point under the German lines where they then placed 50,000lbs of high explosive which was detonated on the 1st July 1916 creating a hole over 90m wide (295’) and 30m deep (98’).
The pockmarked landscape of the Ouvrage du Thiamont battlefield close to Verdun, France still bearing the testimony of the savage ferocity of the fighting. In recent years Verdun has become a symbol of reconciliation between Germany and France – a fitting recognition that during the 10 month battle the opposing sides suffered over 700,000 casualties in total.
St Symphorien Cemetery was established by the Germans after the Battle of Mons in August 1914 it contains both their own dead as well of those of their British adversaries. Indeed the first British soldier to be killed in combat, Pvt. John Parr is buried here and by an odd quirk of fate the last two Commonwealth soldiers to be killed in the war are buried here. Hainaut in Belgium was originally a potash mine but is now a cemetery of real beauty and tranquillity.
View from Cavernes des Dragons southwards over La Vallee Foulon towards French positions
From August 2014 to November 2018, sixty of Michael’s powerful images will be publicly exhibited around the UK and then internationally; bringing the centenary of the Great War to tens of millions of people in their own communities. You can find more information on the exhibition at fieldsofbattle1418.org.