Picturing Conflict: the Arts of War
A View of the Parvati Temple

View of the Parvati temple
One of many photos taken by soldiers on and off duty during battalion tours in India ( 1st/4th Bn or 2nd/4th Bn, Wiltshire Regiment )
© The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum

ENQUIRIES: 

  • Why do you think Sgt. Taylor sent this photograph to his wife?

  • Look closely at the photograph. How is it composed? Compare and contrast the appearance of the British soldiers with that of the Indians. How do their clothes, positions and body language differ?

  • How did the availability of cameras transform the experience of serving abroad?

How did the war open up new horizons?

The First World War involved the mass movement of troops across the world. Here, four members of the Wiltshire Regiment pose for their photograph outside the Parvati Temple – a famous group of monuments in Madhya Pradesh, India. The temple (which is now a World Heritage Site) is on a hilltop, with panoramic views over the city of Pune.

This photograph, sent by Sergeant Frank Taylor to his wife in Wiltshire, is one of thousands of snapshots taken by servicemen during their overseas tours. 

Taking photographs of our own experiences and places we visit seems utterly normal to us – but the First World War was the first time that ordinary soldiers, sailors and nurses, had been able to record their own journeys across the world, their leisure activities, and social occasions.

One of the first and most successful pocket-sized cameras, the Vest Pocket Kodak Camera, appeared in 1912. It was marketed at the outbreak of the war as the 'soldier's camera'.  

For many men, the war provided their first experience of foreign travel – a huge inducement to joining up.  They shared these new experiences with their families through photographs, souvenir postcards and items of craftwork that they brought back home.

At this time, India was still part of the British Empire: two battalions of the Wiltshire Regiment were based there during the war – policing, reinforcing and supporting British rule.

The Indians in this photograph may well be local attendants, attached to the Parvati Temple. But hundreds of Indians were employed by the battalions and provided assistance in many ways – such as laundry hands, water carriers or animal handlers.

Additionally, over 1 million Indian volunteers left their own country to fight for the British Army overseas. For these men – just as for British soldiers serving abroad – the war brought life-changing opportunities to visit new places, and to encounter new landscapes, buildings, people and cultures.

FOLLOW UP ACTIVITIES:

  • Many soldiers brought home photographs, postcards and souvenirs from their travels. How useful are these in helping us understand the First World War? What would it have been like for the men of the Wiltshire Regiment serving in India? Look at the diaries of Sgts. Mundy and Couldrey in the object wall. These extracts from the diaries of Sgt. Mundy and Sgt. Couldrey will help you answer this question.

  • Explore these photographs of the war, looking for evidence of soldiers serving in foreign countries. What differences did they encounter?Can you find out how they felt being so far away from home?

    British Library: First World War Photography

    Was everybody’s war experiences the same do you think? Why not?

     

EXPLORE RELATED OBJECTS:

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View of the Parvati temple

One of many photos taken by soldiers on and off duty during battalion tours in India ( 1st/4th Bn or 2nd/4th…

Soldiers swimming in a river in India

2nd/4th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment, 1915 – 1917
© The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum

Autographic Vest Pocket Kodak Camera

about 1918. This very popular pocket camera was marketed as ' the soldier's camera' .
© Redbridge Museum

A souvenir post card

Port Said, Egypt
© The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum

Souvenir album

postcards showing views of the city of Jerusalem - c.1918.
© Redbridge Museum/ Information & Heritage

Souvenir album

postcards showing views of Jerusalem c.1918 ( inside)
© Redbridge Museum/ Information & Heritage

Mundy Diary extract vol 1 p.102

© The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum

Mundy Diary vol 1 p.103

© The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum

Couldrey Diary extract p.37

© The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum

Couldrey Diary p.38

© The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum