Teign Heritage archivists have been very fortunate to be offered the use of an album of large Great War photographs owned by local residents Aileen and Jonathan Webber. The album was bought in an auction in Chertsey, Surrey, in early 2000, together with other items, for the princely sum of £1.50.
Recently Mr and Mrs Webber researched the origins of the album and the photographer. They were amazed to find that the photos had been taken by an official war photographer named Tom Aitken. He was a newspaper man from Glasgow, who was assigned in December 1917 as a war photographer.
Official war photographers were not appointed until 1916 and soldiers were not encouraged to take photos of war scenes and their experiences. Photograph: the owners of the official war album (seated) with Heather Roche, archivist (standing)
The black and white images are very evocative of the hard times endured by the soldiers, airmen and the civilian population in Northern France and Belgium. However, some of the photographs show more light-hearted moments and the humour of the trenches. Some show the involvement of the horses in troop movements and this is particularly interesting as many horses, as well as men, were sent from Devon.
Photograph: Volunteers exercising on the Den, Teignmouth, in 1914
The Museum will be putting on a World War 1 exhibition opening Monday 4th August at 2pm where the photographs will be on display in digital format . The owners of the album have now sent it to the Imperial War Museum for archiving.
The exhibition, entitled Teignmouth and Shaldon remember 1914, will tell the stories of the 7 local men who lost their lives in 1914, 3 of them naval men who were drowned on the ship HMS Monmouth in the battle of Coronel. Also on display will be memories of Teignmouth in 1914, personal stories of the 1914 local volunteers and casualties, excerpts from war diaries and letters, and the story of the war that year, starting with the battle of Mons and ending with the first battle of Ypres.
Lin Watson, Curator, Teign Heritage Centre