The land war in Europe became a destructive machine, consuming supplies, equipment, and soldiers at massive rates. Resupply ships from the home front and allies streamed across the Atlantic, braving submarine attacks, underwater mines, and aerial bombardment. Battleships clashed with each other from the Indian Ocean to the North Sea, competing for control of colonial territory and home ports. New technologies were invented and refined, such as submarine warfare, camouflaged hulls, and massive water-borne aircraft carriers. And countless thousands of sailors, soldiers, passengers, and crew members were sent to the bottom of the sea. On this 100-year anniversary, I've gathered photographs of the Great War from dozens of collections, some digitized for the first time, to try to tell the story of the conflict, those caught up in it, and how much it affected the world.
The former German submarine UB 148 at sea, after having been surrendered to the Allies. UB-148, a small coastal submarine, was laid down during the winter of 1917 and 1918 at Bremen, Germany, but never commissioned in the Imperial German Navy. She was completing preparations for commissioning when the armistice of November 11 ended hostilities. On November 26, UB-148 was surrendered to the British at Harwich, England. Later, when the United States Navy expressed an interest in acquiring several former U-boats to use in conjunction with a Victory Bond drive, UB-148 was one of the six boats allocated for that purpose.
(US National Archives)
Evacuation of Suvla Bay, Dardanelles, Gallipoli Peninsula, on January 1916. The Gallipoli campaign was part of an Allied effort to capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul). After eight bloody months on the peninsula, Allied troops withdrew in defeat, under cover of fire from the sea.
(Bibliotheque nationale de France)
The British Aircraft Carrier HMS Argus. Converted from an ocean liner, the Argus could carry 15-18 aircraft. Commissioned at the very end of WWI, the Argus did not see any combat. The ship's hull is painted in Dazzle camouflage. Dazzle camouflage was widely used during the war years, designed to make it difficult for an enemy to estimate the range, heading, or speed of a ship, and make it a harder target - especially as seen from a submarine's periscope. (National World War I Museum, Kansas City, Missouri, USA)
United States Marines and Sailors posing on unidentified ship (likely either the USS Pennsylvania or USS Arizona), in 1918. (National World War I Museum, Kansas City, Missouri, USA)
Men on deck of a ship removing ice. Original caption: "On a winters morning returning from France". (National World War I Museum, Kansas City, Missouri, USA)
The USS Pocahontas, a U.S. Navy transport ship, photographed in Dazzle camouflage, in 1918. The ship was originally a German passenger liner named the Prinzess Irene. She was docked in New York at the start of the war, and seized by the U.S. when it entered the conflict in April 1917, and re-christened Pocahontas.
(San Diego Air and Space Museum)
The German cruiser SMS Emden, beached on Cocos Island in 1914. The Emden, a part of the German East Asia Squadron, attacked and sank a Russian cruiser and a French destroyer in Penang, Malaysia, in October of 1914. The Emden then set out to destroy a British radio station on Cocos Island in the Indian Ocean. During that raid, the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney attacked and damaged the Emden, forcing it to run aground.
(State Library of New South Wales)
The "Leviathan", formerly the German passenger liner "Vaterland", leaving Hoboken, New Jersey, for France. The hull of the ship is covered in Dazzle camouflage. In the spring and summer of 1918, Leviathan averaged 27 days for the round trip across the Atlantic, carrying 12,000 soldiers at a time.
(U.S. Army Signal Corps)
The Zeebrugge Raid took place on April 23, 1918. The Royal Navy attempted to block the Belgian port of Bruges-Zeebrugge by sinking older ships in the canal entrance, to prevent German vessels from leaving port. Two ships were successfully sunk in the canal, at the cost of 583 lives. Unfortunately, the ships were sunk in the wrong place, and the canal was re-opened in days. Photograph taken in May of 1918.
(National Archive/Official German Photograph of WWI)
HMS Audacious crew board lifeboats to be taken aboard RMS Olympic, October, 1914. The Audacious was a British battleship, sunk by a German naval mine off the northern coast of Donegal, Ireland.
(CC BY SA Nigel Aspdin)
Sinking of the German Cruiser SMS Bluecher, in the Battle of Dogger Bank, in the North Sea, between German and British dreadnoughts, on January 24, 1915. The Bluecher sank with the loss of nearly a thousand sailors. This photo was taken from the deck of the British Cruiser Arethusia.
(U.S. National Archives