Silent Landscape

The Battlefields of the Western Front One Hundred Years On

James Kerr, Simon Doughty

Date Published :
June 2016
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Illustration :
c 170 color photos, maps
No associated books available.


This is an illustrated book about the landscape of the Western Front where the First World War was fought, relentlessly, for over four years across a narrow ribbon of ground stretching some 440 miles from the North Sea to the Swiss border. All the destructive power then known to man was used here, with success and failure measured in yards rather than human cost. The character of the landscape was soon lost once the battles started in earnest, stripped bare of vegetation and topsoil, churned beyond recognition, with irrigation systems destroyed, woods and forests erased, high explosive shells and other man-made remnants of war littering the ground, and the remains of many thousands of soldiers laying on the battlefields.

Towns and villages were rebuilt, concealing all trace of war for the next generation. But in the countryside there remained indelible scars. This landscape has gradually recovered thanks mostly to nature and regeneration, while that other enduring legacy of the war, the cemeteries, memorials, preserved trenches and battlefields, carefully tended as gardens and parkland, now provide an ordered sense of humanity. These places have become part of the landscape as if they had always been there, as indeed they now always will.

The authors have explored the length of the Western Front, not just those places that resonate in Britain, but to less familiar stretches of the front-line where both allies and enemies faced each other, in low swamps, rolling hills, and rocky mountainsides. It has been something of a journey, since there were many fierce battles in places that are rarely if ever mentioned in British accounts of the war. Equally revealing is that most of these hidden parts of the Western Front are all well within a day’s drive of the Channel ports.

This book captures some of the haunting and evocative images of the Western Front landscape as it is now, using present-day photography. It focuses on the physical sweep of a place irrevocably changed by events that took place 100 years’ ago.

About The Author

James Kerr has been an interior, landscape and garden photographer for over twenty years. The First World War has always held a great fascination and he has visited the Western Front many times with his camera. Before becoming a photographer he spent seven years in the Coldstream Guards. His work has been published in several books on the Great War as well as Shakespeare’s Scenery, a coffee table book of Warwickshire.

Simon Doughty was commissioned into The Life Guards in 1976 and retired from the army in 2009. He is a graduate of War Studies at King's College London and is a member of the British Commission for Military History, the Society of Army Historical Research and the Army Records Society. As a battlefield guide, he has worked for Holts Battlefield & History Tours and occasionally takes friends on visits to First and Second World War battlefields. He is the editor of The Guards Magazine and the author of The Guards Came Through; The Guards Regiments in The Great War.


"A beautifully-crafted book with a large number of stunning photographs by James Kerr, Silent Landscapes is a fitting tribute to the men and women who fought on the Western Front, while simultaneously offering the battlefield visitor a visually stunning accompaniment. The aerial images are fascinating, and the winter shots particularly striking. The book is highly recommended."

- Richard van Emden

“ … Being a battlefield photographer myself I am always fascinated to see how other photographers view the world I take images in. This book is a real treat for that, with so many great photos, and not just from the Somme and Flanders, but the Vosges, Main de Massiges and some really stunning images of the Phantoms Memorial in the Marne. It is easy to get lost in a book like this, and the accompanying text is far from just dressing, it adds contexts to the photographs and makes this book one of the recent highlights of WW1 Centenary publishing. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys seeing images of the battlefields and those who wish to improve their own photographs.”

- Paul Reed,

“ … The photography is of excellent quality and accompanied by thoughtful and apt paragraphs of text.”

- The Foreign Correspondent

"This coffee table book commemorating the 100th anniversary of WWI features a wealth of contemporary color photos and maps of battlefields, ruins, locations, and memorials at the Western Front, showing the landscape of the Western Front as it is now. Chapters deal with various regions: Ypres and the Salient, Artois, the Somme, Cambrai, the Aisne, Champagne and Argonne, Verdun and St. Mihiel, and Alsace."

- ProtoView

“ … Where this volume stands out, and earns its place on a historian’s bookshelf, is the selection of less familiar battlefields. French battlefields of 1914; American memorials and other paths less trodden by modern battlefield tourism. This is a very high-quality production, well up to Helion’s standards and worth a place on the bookshelf.”

- Society of Friends of the National Army Museum

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