Over by Christmas…

This captivating album begins on the cusp of WWI and carries on through to its immediate aftermath. The first few pages show a wealthy family who seem to live in a carefree idyll of larks, picnics, sack races, apple ducking and go-carting. The photos of the family relaxing in the woods have the louche atmosphere of a French Impressionist painting. A consciously comic tableau shows two men holding two halves of a bicycle that has been sawn in half. There are three portraits – two of men in uniform, and the third, an interior shot of a middle-aged woman who looks dressed and steeled for a funeral. Unidentified bombed-out ruins, and the footprint of rebuilding, are also shown. In the wedding photographs, several of the women can be seen sporting bandeaux, increasingly part of the flapper uniform.

There are more than a dozen shots of the Peace Day Parade in London, held on 19 July 1919, the very first Remembrance Day. The temporary cenotaph made of plaster and wood, which was later replaced by a redesigned permanent structure in 1920, has been recorded. At the top of the photograph, the word ‘CENOTAPH’ is printed upside down. There are shots of military tanks, a bi-plane fly-by over Whitehall and a costumed women’s procession, all part of the pageantry of the day. Throngs of excited onlookers wave their fresh white pressed hankies at the motorcades, mounted cavalry, Allied troops and dignitaries parading past. On the same day, Luton town hall was burned down by rioters, many of them disgruntled ex-servicemen.

There is a photograph of four boys, dressed respectively in the military uniforms of Britain, France, Germany and America. Emerging from woods and thicket, they look like boy-soldiers who hadn’t been told the war was over.

Nigel Martin Shephard

Published by The Family Museum

We are an archival project about amateur family photography, based in London and set up by filmmaker Nigel Shephard and editor Rachael Moloney.

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