Personal photos capture Holy Land stories of British World War I soldiers

World War I represented the first time that British soldiers could carry a personal camera with them into a military expedition.

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December 19, 2017 13:56
1 minute read.
Personal photos capture Holy Land stories of British World War I soldiers

British soldiers pictured in the Middle East during World War I. (photo credit: NATIONAL LIBRARY OF ISRAEL)

 
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The famous photo of General Allenby entering Jerusalem in December 1917 might be the defining image of British victory over Ottoman forces during World War I.

Allenby, the commander of the "Egyptian Expeditionary Force," dismounted from his horse and entered the city on foot as a sign of respect for the holy city. Despite this, the pomp and circumstance of the ceremony cannot be missed in photographs from the event.

General Sir Edmund Allenby enters the Holy City of Jerusalem on foot, December 11, 1917 (Wikimedia Commons)

Far away from the celebrations, however, World War I represented the first time that British soldiers could carry a personal camera with them into a military expedition.

This enabled them to document their experiences and discoveries as they battled and journeyed in the Holy Land - a destination with more than military significance for the Protestant British forces.

"German Hospice": British soldier's photograph from the Middle East during World War I (NATIONAL LIBRARY OF ISRAEL)

The National Library of Israel is home to a number of private albums from both sides of the conflict. The albums showcase not only army life but also religious sites, inhabitants and scenery.


One perfectly preserved album in the library's collection was compiled by a soldier said to have fought in the British Army's 74th Cavalry Battalion, although his exact identity is unknown. The soldier's captions provide a further insight into the journey traveled by British forces.

"Jews Wailing Place": British soldier's photograph from the Middle East during World War I (NATIONAL LIBRARY OF ISRAEL)

Reflecting the nameless soldier, the album is simply titled "The Photographs of a British Soldier from the First World War in the Land of Israel."

Personal photographs depicting everyday army life prior to the British invasion of Ottoman-controlled Palestine, the majority photographed in Alexandria, Egypt, also feature in the album.



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