War and Peace
Photo by HD Girdwood

Charles Hilton DeWitt Girdwood (HD Girdwood) began selling pictures as an undergraduate at Kalamazoo College in Michigan. He continued his photography business even after graduating, and travelled to India for the first time in 1903 to capture images of the Delhi Durbar. He subsequently returned to India a number of times on photographic assignments. In 1915 (the second year of the World War I), he was possessed with the need to capture images from the war front line, but his initial attempts to accompany the Indian army were rejected. Later, the War Office allowed him to travel with the army for about a fortnight. However, it was later discovered that Girdwood had staged a lot of his combat photographs, as he had restricted access to the front lines. As a result, his images from France captured a different side of the war that showed soldiers enjoying their time off — playing cards, singing religious chants, wrestling. A lot of photographs are also accompanied by detailed, overly optimistic captions, which point towards the possibility that these photographs could have also been used for propaganda. The British Library digitised the collection of Girdwood’s World War I pictures earlier this year in April. Here are some of our favourites from the archives, with their original captions.

Arrival of mail at Brigade Post Office [Linghem, France]

Indian infantry in the trenches, prepared against a gas attack [Fauquissart, France]

H.H. the Maharaja of Barwani in France [Merville]

British and Indian officers of the 18th Lancers

Indian officer wounded with German officer’s helmet, which he captured at Neuve Chapelle [Brighton]

Some Indian cavalry troopers preparing a meal [Estrée Blanche, France]

The X-ray room at the Kitchener Hospital, Brighton

Card parties of wounded Indians at Brighton, England

Wrestling matches, Jats at play [near Merville, France]

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