New Images From World War One Released Ahead of 90th Anniversary in November


A diary from the First World War contains unseen images sketched on the battlefields in no-man's-land just yards from the German front line.

Soldier Len Smith, with his rifle in one hand and his paintbrush in the other, used to paint German positions as shells passed overhead.

The detailed images – in the days when cameras were rare – were then used by senior officers to decide upon military strategy.

The watercolors, until now seen only by the author's immediate family, have been made available for the first time just ahead of the 90Th anniversary of the end of the First World War on 11Th November 2008.

One of 'Smithies' most remarkable undertakings was when he was asked to sketch German positions at Vi my Ridge, a famous victory on the Western Front for the Canadian Corps serving in the Great War.

His diary reads: 'I was detailed to do a special job up in the trenches almost as soon as we arrived. Brigade Headquarters issued instructions for a panorama sketch of the German lines embracing their entire section that faced our 140Th Brigade front, with all useful observation notes attached. This was a far easier job to command than to do. It was quite too abruptly fiercely to attempt to draw up there at this period – the Huns shelling was almost incessant. So I had to scramble 'over the top', making rough pencil notes over a period of four days – real hard, risky work, and at dusk poling back to the billet cellar to prepare the whole thing as a finished co loved sketch by the aid of the candle. A panorama that when once pieced together was some two yards long. '

When complete the sketch was handed over to a sergeant and then submitted to headquarters. Smithie was later told by the general: 'Very cleverly executed, co lour and drawing mighty skillful but above all infinitely useful.'

After a separate bout of trench fever Smithie was transferred to the Royal Engineers Special Branch near the front where many strange devices were prepared for camouflage purposes.

Based at Arras, he writes: 'One of special job would have to go to a stipulated section of the front line trenches, and by means of a carefully drawn map, find the exact spot indicated where an observation post or listening post was needed, ( always as close as possible of course to the enemy). In this case it was a tree, which was standing among the Hun's barbed wire. I would make a careful sketch showing all necessary detail, which when completed would be sent down the line to the workshops, where they would proceed to make a facsimile tree in iron and steel, hollow, with a ladder running up the center to the top . This would then be painted in natural co lords and after dispatched to its destination.

'The old tree would be brought down, the new steel one take is place, all in the darkness of one night, praying Jerry will not' tumble 'to the game and if all went well, a man would be able to go through the short tunnel the miners had made previously, climb up the ladder and sit among the tangled branches up at the top seeing much, hearing plenty and coming in at night full of information. '

The author's great nephew, Dave Mason who lives near London has now published the 360-page diary on the Internet.

Mr Mason, 62, from Woodford Green, Essex, said: "I can honestly say when I read the diary to find out how much he had been involved in the Great War.

'He talks of his friends and how most of them were killed, of the narrow escapes he has but at the same time he is very conservative about the German soldiers he killed, only mentioning one or two accidents, leaving much to the imagination – on one occasion when referring to a sniping sortie for example, he said that he returned to his unit having run out of ammunition. '

Len Smith died in December 1974 at Bexhill-on-Sea in Sussex at the age of 83, still keeping a diary and doing his sketches up until a few days before his death. His wife Jessie lived to the age of 99.


Source by Tim Barlass