Life aft in phot
When the First World War came to an end on the 11th November 1918, people the world over breathed a sigh of relief. But in the years that followed, the war’s legacy created new challenges as well as new opportunities. The IWM’s new exhibition, titled Renewal: Life After the First World War in Photographs, documents some of the realities people faced in the postwar world and how they responded to them.
While the First World War was not as widely destructive as the Second, the parts of the world that saw the heaviest fighting were left devastated. Along the Western Front in France and Belgium towns were reduced to rubble and many villages were destroyed completely. Civilians who had fled their homes as the opposing armies converged on them often returned to find everything they owned had been destroyed. This was the case for the family pictured here (picture 1) who lived in Amiens, France.
How to respond to the devastation on the Western Front became a political issue. The town of Ypres (picture 2), which was fought over repeatedly during the war and reduced to rubble, was particularly controversial. At the war’s end Winston Churchill, then a government minister, proposed that the town be left in ruins as a memorial to the soldiers who had fo there. The returning cit of Ypres naturally had o ideas and so the town w built. Special care was g restoring the medieval t centre to its former glor the townspeople had be housed in (at first) temp accommodation.
British and Empire s returning home, on the hand, faced different pr lems. Unemployment, p logical trauma and phys disability affected retur in large numbers. Chari like St Dunstan’s (pictur and the YMCA stepped i help, as did organisatio Lord Robert’s Memorial shop, which employed bled men and trained th produce toys and other (picture 4). These group charitable in the Victori tradition, practising re tation through employ with the goal of restorin veterans’ dignity and m them productive memb society once again.
Finally the end of the was not, as some had ho the end of all war. Many flicts emerged or contin the years after 1918, mo a few involving the UK. British Army was deplo to Ireland to fight the in pendence movement, t Northwest Frontier of I to police the unstable re and to countries border the new communist Russian state which was expanding aggressively. Here you can see instructors from the Royal Marines training Estonians in the use of British weapons to defend against Russia. The chilly Estonian winter is a far cry from the balmy peacetime colonial policing these soldiers might have been expecting after the war (picture 5).
The Cloth Hall in Ypres The liberation of Munich. Captain Francis Derwent Wood RA puts the finishing touches to a cosmetic plate made for a British soldier with a serious facial wound.