The pair of photographs you see below was taken in Moorsele, Belgium (today a part of Wevelgem) in 1917. I at once fell in love with these two shots as the quality of the images and their setting is wonderful. The Prisoners look relaxed and on the second photograph many of them are smiling aswell.
The villa was used as Divisional HQ for the german 34th Infantry Division in August 1917. Thanks to some detective work of my dutch friend Alex Tijhuis, who was able to pinpoint the location of the house, I was able to play around a little and even if its not as professional as the works of some photographic artists out there I am quite proud of it:
Perspective of the WW1 photo is not 100% identical to the modern photo, still quite ok I think – Click to enlarge
If any of my readers live in the area I would be grateful for some more photographs of the house so I can do another version with a better resolution.
About half a year ago I posted this photo on Twitter and so far forgot about it. Today it turned up again and I remembered that I had planned to write a small article about it. Its one of my favoured images.
This powerful photo shows two young boys. One is clad in what I think is parts of a military uniform (boots, forage cap, uniform trousers), the other seems to have been supplied with an old pair of german army boots.
The original caption reads “Louis (right), our youngest prisoner, POW “Conscrits” Labour Company 14″ No date or place is given.
As the other photos of the series show places like Ripont, Manre, Rouvroy Challerange I am quite sure the photo was taken at the Marne, Champagne. Uniforms and equipment of the german soldiers on the photos make a date of mid-end 1917 my closest guess.
In the past there was some discussion that “Louis” is a civilian forced to work for the german army. I am quite sure that he was indeed taken prisoner with adult french soldiers. POW labour companies were made up of military prisoners of war and the other photos show french soldiers, some wearing a mix of civilian and army clothing and fully uniformed french POWs.
Anyway, this image is intriguing. Look at Louis face, his eyes look old don’t you think? Who was he, what became of him? We will probably never know.