St Mihiel

The American Memorial at Montsec.

Loos

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.

Verdun

A battered gun turret atop the Ouvrage de Froidterre.

The Photographer

Fields of Battle-Lands of Peace 14-18 is the work of photo-journalist Michael St Maur Sheil.

Captured over a period of eight years, Michael’s photography combines a passion for history and landscape and presents a unique reflection on the transformation of the battlefields of the Great War into the landscape of modern Europe.

Michael commented:
“This collection represents a legacy which I hope will create a gateway to the battlefields themselves, thus encouraging people to visit these historic landscapes during the centennial period and so create awareness and understanding of the events and historical implications of the First World War".

After studying Geography at Oxford, in the early 1970's Mike began his life as a photo-journalist by covering 'the Troubles' in Northern Ireland. Here he became associated with the New York picture agency, Black Star and over thirty years later he is still in the fortunate position of being paid to do what he loves doing - taking photographs.

Mike has visited over 60 countries around the world, working for a wide range of clients such as ABC-TV, BBC, Anti-Slavery International, British Red Cross, European Commission, National Geographic, New York Times, Shell, Time & Time Life.

 

 

Mike Sheil

© Paul Brown/Mary Evans

The Inspiration

 

If any one wants the reason for these photographs then they have to look no further than the thoughts of a veteran leaving the shattered fields of the Somme for the last time who wrote:

“No they would not be lonely, I saw that bare country before me...the miles and miles of torn earth ... the litter, the dead trees. But 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 ...though we were going home and leaving them behind. We belonged to them, and they would be a part of us for ever.”

For me these words, which are both a declaration of loyalty to lost comrades and faith in a future world of peace and tranquillity, give some reason why all these years later we should be thankful to the men of ’14-18.

The writer’s nationality does not matter [he was an Englishman, P J Campbell] because his words are those of any soldier looking to a future in the hope that it will make sense of the past.

 

It was whilst on a visit to Dunkirk with my father, who had fought there in WWII, that I first became aware of the close attention that soldiers pay to the ground which surrounds them and the way in which their vision of a battlefield extends not to miles but just the yards,evenfeetwhichtheycansurveywithoutthemselvesbeing seen. It was Richard Holmes who shaped this further by insisting that my pictures should not just be an emotional response to a battlefield where men had died but should seek to tell the history, the stories of the men who fought there.

 

The Somme

 

 

Western Front Photography

 

Mike Sheil's website, Western Front Photography, offers a further insight into his work with multiple galleries featuring images from each of the battlefields he has visited over his seven year journey.


Click the image to the right to visit the site.

 


 

 

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