Some of the most far-flung resting places of Commonwealth soldiers who died during the First World War are being highlighted in a new photographic book published to coincide with the centenary of the conflict.
From the African desert to a Scottish loch, For the Fallen captures the stories behind war graves and memorials across the world in what is being billed as a photographic tribute to the unsung heroes of the Great War and the tireless work of the Commonwealth War Graves Comission (CWGC), which maintains more than 23,000 locations across the world.
In the book, photo journalist Michael St Maur Sheil visited hundreds of sites to bring to life the stories behind them – from a soldier buried alongside his twin, who died the same day, in Saskatchewan in Canada to the memorial by the Tower of London dedicated to 12,000 men lost at sea.
Accompanied by a commentary from Peter Francis, from the CWGC, the photos are hoped to give an insight into the sheer number and spread of war graves and the commission’s work in maintaining them.
From headstones in the remote Namib Desert to those in the undergrowth of Buff Bay in Jamaica, and from an isolated grave on a tiny island on Loch Shiel to the 72,000 names on the Thiepval Memorial in France, the book aims to commemorate some of history’s greatest and most devastating battles and the men and women who fought and died in them.
Mr Sheil said he wanted to “make each picture count”.
He said: “ I did not want the book to be just a collection of stones and crosses but rather wanted to show the cemeteries within the landscape.
“The CWGC works in an amazing range of climatic and geographical regions so I wanted to show that extent and show the landscapes where these men died.
“They were all equal places of death and my job was really to reflect the extent of CWGC work in caring for these graves wherever they may be.
“The handful of men buried at Trekkopje in the Namib desert are just as ‘dead’ and were just as missed by their families as the mass of men in Tyne Cot.”
Mr Sheil, who has been documenting battlefields of the Great War since 2006, said he hopedthe book would help people realise that the First World War was fought far beyond Europe.
“I would like people to realise that the First World War was exactly that, namely a World War: we tend to think of it just being in France but we ignore its territorial range and the collateral loss of life.
“The loss of life in Africa is estimated to have been over one million people largely through famine and disease and it helped generate the terrible pandemic of Spanish flu.”
l For The Fallen, with photographs by Michael St Maur Sheil and words by Peter Francis, is published on October 1 (AA Publishing, £25).