A Meandering Life...

By Skeena

Then & Now

Sorry this is a little longer than my usual entries...

Today I have been working on a project that is investigating the concept of ‘Then and Now’ photography of the First World War. It is a joint venture between the Royal Photographic Society’s Documentary Group and the History Department at Exeter University. It is as much an exercise in collaboration with sources of materials as it is in producing ‘Then and Now’ images. 

I have chosen the wounded evacuation chain from the battlefield back to Blighty (UK). This will include the battlefield, casualty clearing station, hospital train, hospital ship, Main UK hospital and finally convalescent centre. My link will be my great grandfather, a RAMC stretcher bearer, who won a Military Medal during the Battle of The Somme in 1916. He was wounded on the same day and evacuated back to England. 

Through research I have found images of where he was posted, the hospital train and ship that transported him back plus which hospital in London that treated him. Finally he ended up in Eastbourne at a major convalescence centre call Summerdown Camp. It is here I started my journey of getting ‘Now’ images (I like working backwards…)

I am not sure how I will present my final work but I thought I’d overlay today’s image with the postcard from 1916 taken at the camp. It appears recovering soldiers were given drill lessons as a form of exercise and to maintain discipline. The two houses were the first to be built in the adjoining road and survive today. They are the key to my image. 

Today the field where the soldiers are marching is either private gardens or part of the Royal Eastbourne Golf Club. You can see the full ‘Then and Now’ images as extras. The postcard belongs to the Eastbourne Heritage Centre who have given me permission to use any of their images/postcards for my project.

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