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Faces of the First World War – One year on

Posted  9 November 2012 in News  
By Kate Clements
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Faces of the First World War on Flickr

On Armistice Day last year, IWM added 100 previously unseen portraits of men who served in the First World War to the Flickr Commons.

These photos are part of the online project ‘Faces of the First World War‘ and were the first of over 300 to be added in the past year.

The idea behind the project is for people from across the world to help IWM uncover the stories of the people in the photographs, who served – and often died – in the First World War.

Some of the portraits have only a name, rank and unit recorded for the person in them, while others have more facts listed as a starting point for researchers.

The response to the project has been unprecedented. There have been over one thousand responses and comments added to the IWM Flickr pages and over one million views of the photos since it began. With the digital community’s help, the stories behind the ‘Faces of the First World War’ are now being pieced together.

In several cases, information has been added by direct descendants of those in the photos. Contributions from such close family links ensure not only that the details about the person in the image are accurate, but that they have a personal aspect, too.

Major Harold Ditmas

Major Harold Ditmas’s photo was uploaded to the Flickr project in January 2012. In April, his son added information to his page which both corrected some comments previously made and provided fascinating details about his life.

We learned about Major Ditmas’s pre-war Army service; his marriage; children and hobbies.  We also found out that he went to France in 1914, and fought in many of the major battles on the Western Front – ultimately suffering from severe shell-shock.

His son also added the interesting detail that he now has over 100 living descendants.

Hidden in plain sight within the photos are deeper stories of loss and mourning experienced by the people pictured.

Through public research, it was uncovered that Lieutenant Henry Inigo-Jones lost his father in July 1914. It was noted that in his portrait he wears a black armband of mourning.

This work has helped in more closely identifying when and where his photograph may have been taken. Read his story to find out more.

But there are still stories that are left untold. Little is known, for example, about Lieutenant Commander C Baron or Lieutenant R Thompson, as well as many others in the ‘Faces of the First World War’ project.

IWM will continue to upload a photo each weekday until August 2014. Visit the project online and help to uncover more about the lives behind the faces pictured.

‘Faces of the First World War’ is one of the first online projects from the First World War Centenary Programme, led by IWM.

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