Family Photographs from WW1: A Departure Scene

Family Photographs from WW1:

A Departure Scene



family ww1 soldier




Among our family photographs dating from the First World War, perhaps the most common type of image is the poignant portrait of the serviceman departing for war. Not only adventurous youths but also mature men with steady civilian jobs and families to support signed up or were conscripted into the army.

Many new recruits had studio photographs taken in uniform to indicate their new role, membership of a military organisation and to demonstrate that they were serving their country. The soldier in the above scene wears the 1914-pattern leather belt typically worn by Infantry Service battalions, introduced in haste to equip a rapidly-expanding army. His wife and three young children are well-dressed in the ‘Sunday best’ fashions typical of the mid-1910s.

This kind of formal group portrait was essentially also a departure scene – a last photograph taken together as a family. The soldier would take a copy away to war with him as a precious keepsake depicting loved ones at home awaiting his safe return. His family would keep another copy in the house, perhaps propped up on the mantelpiece as a daily reminder of their absent husband and father. Such photographs provided a crucial way of maintaining contact throughout the duration of the war. This soldier has not yet been identified, so it is not known whether he lived to see his wife and children again.