First World War magic lantern slides 234

Magic lantern slides are a rich source are archival photographs. During the First World War they were still the dominant projection slide format, even though the heyday of lantern slides was twenty years earlier. Many thousands of photos taken during the war were printed onto glass slides so that they could be projected for audiences.

I have featured WW1 slides before and will do so again as I come across new material. These three are from a recent Ebay purchase and, even after forty years collecting, I was surprised by them for a number of reasons. All of the forty five slides in the group are pin-sharp and, unlike some WW1 photos, appear to show real (rather than staged) action. Each has an Imperial War Museum copyright label which, despite owning several hundred First World War slides, I have not seen before. This suggests that the museum produced them for public viewing, perhaps for lectures after the war. Most WW1 photos tend to be anonymous, perhaps for secrecy reasons but theses have with them a typed list of the slide reference numbers and descriptions, so it’s possible to identify precise locations and dates. 

Perhaps, most surprising of all, was the fact that they had been on Ebay for several days, unsold, before I spotted and bought them. 233

The three slides shown are particularly poignant, especially for those who have relatives involved in these battles. From top to bottom, the original captions are …… 

Pack-horses taking ammunition up to the guns over muddy ground near Aveluy Wood, September 1916.

An observation balloon falling to the earth in flames; Boyelles, 3rd February 1918. (Observation balloons were, of course, manned, so this is a soldier, not just a balloon, plummeting to the ground)

Battle of Flanders – Smashed German trenches and dug-outs near Boesinghe. A British working party resting in the foreground – 5th August 1917.

All in all, a remarkable Ebay ‘find’ and a sobering reminder of the appalling conditions our troops were fighting in. 235

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