A unique portrait of the First World War battlefields, Fields of Battle - Lands of Peace 14-18 is a unique photographic collection created by Michael St Maur Sheil , which tells of the healed scars of the First World War through our only remaining living witness:
The fields of battle themselves...

Somme

The Newfoundland Memorial Park at Beaumont Hamel contains some of the best preserved and most easily viewed trenches of the Western Front.

Somme

Dawn over the river Somme at Curlu.

Messines

Rain storm over the Messines-Wijtschate Ridge.

Messines

Reconstructed German trenches at Bayernwald.

Somme

A collection of munitions stacked in the corner of a private garden.

St Mihiel

The American Memorial at Montsec.

Verdun

A battered gun turret atop the Ouvrage de Froidterre.

 

The 11th of November 2018 marked the centenary of the armistice which terminated the First World War in Europe. When the charity which supported Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace 1418 was set up, it was for the stated purpose of creating ‘multi-national and educational material which will be on show throughout Europe during the centennial period 2014-2018’.

 

We feel that we have achieved that aim as during that period we have mounted no less than 35 exhibitions in nine different countries to a viewing audience of over 13 million people, making this the largest international First World War project undertaken by any organisation.

 

The photographs themselves were inspired by the words of a veteran who wrote of all those who had died that:

 

The country would come back to life, the grass would grow again, the wild flowers return, and trees where now there were only splintered skeleton stumps.
They would lie still and at peace below the singing larks, beside the serenely flowing rivers. They could not feel lonely, they would have one another. And they would have us also, though we were going home and leaving them behind. We belonged to them, and they would be a part of us for ever.

The exhibition has always sought to honour the vision of a new and better world after the war as failure to fulfil that vision, would have rendered the sacrifice of so many as totally worthless. By showing how time and nature have indeed healed the scars of war and transformed places of horror and suffering into landscapes of great beauty and tranquillity is a simple metaphor for reconciliation. If we really wish to commemorate the men who died we should mark their sacrifice, not just with sentimental gestures, but with contemplation and a true consideration of the costs of conflict.

 

Our project has now finished and we are now working to ensure that the work will accessible to future generations and accordingly we are donating the collection of over 17,000 images to an organisation of international repute.

 

New York City

Over One Million people viewed the exhibition on 5th Avenue in the heart of New York City.

St James's Park, London

Fields of Battle was on display on two separate occasions directly opposite Horseguards Parade.

Guildhall, London

Fields of Battle was the first exhibition to be displayed at the Guildhall in the City of London.

St Stephen's Green, Dublin

The exhibition was the first ever about the British Army in WWI to be exhibited in Ireland.

We have some extraordinary memories. We were the first such exhibition ever to be displayed in the Guildhall Yard in the City of London and were then invited back on two more occasions. In New York over one million people viewed the exhibition as it stood in the shadow of the Flatiron Building on 5th Avenue.

We exhibited twice in St. James’s Park and, most poignantly of all, when we became the first exhibition about the British Army in WWI to be exhibited in Ireland, we were placed in St. Stephen’s Green, itself a scene of fighting during the Easter Rising of 1916. We were moved and honoured when the exhibition was then extended with a display in Glasnevin Cemetery, adjacent to the plot where prominent Irish republicans are buried, as there could not have been a more significant gesture of reconciliation than this.

So our thanks to all who have helped and supported us.

Jonathan Prince.
CEO fieldsofbattle1418.org

Michael St. Maur Sheil
Photographer

Doughboys Exhibition - 2017

 

Click the video to the right for an overview of the exhibition at Guildhall Yard with an introduction by The Lord Mayor of London.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Memorial Day - Kansas City - 2017

 

Mike Sheil addresses The Mayor of Kansas City, Congressmen, Trustees of the National World War One Museum and a special audience of American Citizens on Memorial Day.

 

 

 


 

Guildhall Yard, London - Summer 2016

Click to the right for a video profile of the exhibition as it appeared in Guildhall Yard, London, between June 1st and July 3rd 2016.

Featuring interviews with Photographer Mike Sheil and Historian Sir Hew Strachan, this short video also includes moving public feedback together with schoolchildrens' thoughts on the exhibition and the First World War itself.

RUSI Journal

 

An interview with Michael St Maur Sheil by Alex Mayhew

You have made an effort to contextualise your work. It is clear that your aim was not only to create art but also to engage with the military history of the sites you captured on film.

Did this affect how you approached your photography?

I used to be a commercial photographer but am now studying for an MA in military history.
I've totally changed direction and I'm enjoying it. The exhibition that we have in Belfast and just had in London includes 19,000 words of captions - I wrote every single one.

This all began when I first met Richard Holmes and began discussing the project. He advised me that I had to have two things: The location and some hold: a person or a story that was related to that place.

To read more click on the image to the right to download the entire article in PDF form.

(3.2 Mb)

 

 

 

 

Mike Sheil

We would like to gratefully acknowledge the support we received from:

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