As countries caught up in the war sent soldiers to the front lines, they also built support behind the lines and at home, with women taking many roles. As villages became battlefields, refugees were scattered across Europe.
When looking through thousands of images of World War I, some of the more striking photos are not of technological wonders or battle-scarred landscapes, but of the human beings caught up in the chaos. The soldiers were men, young and old, and the opportunity to look into their faces and see the emotion, their humanity, instead of a uniform or nationality, is a gift - a real window into the world a century ago. While soldiers bore the brunt of the war, civilians were involved on a massive scale as well. From the millions of refugees forced from their homes, to the volunteer ambulance drivers, cooks, and nurses, to the civilian support groups used by all major armies, ordinary people found themselves at war. Today's entry is a glimpse into the lives of these people, in battle, at play, at rest, and at work, during World War I. 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. Today's entry is part 6 of a 10-part series on World War I, which will be posted every Sunday until June 29. Come back next week for Part 7.
French soldiers stand in a relaxed group wearing medals. The medals appear to be the Military Medal, established on 25th March, 1916, for acts of bravery. They have probably been awarded for their part in the Battle of the Somme. The French helmets, with their very distinct crests, can be seen clearly. (National Library of Scotland)
Private Ernest Stambash, Co. K, 165th Infantry, 42nd division, receives a cigarette from Miss Anna Rochester, American Red Cross volunteer at Evacuation Hospital No. 6 and 7, at Souilly, Meuse, France, on October 14, 1918. (AP Photo) #
A large group of soldiers, likely South African infantry, having a good time. They are stamping their feet and brandishing anything that comes to hand, from walking sticks to swords. It is all being done in a light-hearted fashion, with most of the men pulling funny faces and smiling. Many of the soldiers are wearing kilts and balmorals. (National Library of Scotland) #
Western front, a group of captured Allied soldiers representing 8 nationalities: Anamite (Vietnamese), Tunisian, Senegalese, Sudanese, Russian, American, Portugese, and English. (National Archive/Official German Photograph of WWI) #
U.S. Signal Corps telephone operators in Advance Sector, 3 km from the trenches in France. The women were part of the Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators Unit and were also known as Hello Girls. Women have helmets and gas masks in bags on back of chairs. (National World War I Museum, Kansas City, Missouri, USA) #
Women\'s Army Auxiliary Corps (W.A.A.C.) members play field hockey with soldiers in France, during World War I, drying greens and convalescent home buildings visible in the background. (National Library of Scotland) #
Undated image, reportedly of Corporal Adolf Hitler of the German Army, standing at left (under the "+") with his comrades forming the band "Kapelle Krach", during recovery from an injury he received on the western front during World War I. (AP Photo) #
Dressed in a rather exotic uniform of army boots, army caps and fur coats, this image shows five female members of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry standing in front of some Red Cross ambulances. As the first female recruits of this organization came from the ranks of the upper classes, perhaps the fur coats should not be too surprising. The women would have worked as drivers, nurses and cooks. Established by Lord Kitchener in 1907, the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) was initially an auxiliary unit of women nurses on horseback, who linked the military field hospitals with the frontline troops. Serving in dangerous forward areas, by the end of the conflict First Aid Nursing Yeomanry members had been awarded 17 Military Medals, 1 Legion d\'Honneur and 27 Croix de Guerre. A memorial to those women who lost their lives while working for the organization, can be found at St Paul\'s Church, Knightsbridge, London. (National Library of Scotland) #
Labour Corps members, the caption identifies these seven men as \'native police\'. They are probably black South Africans who had contracted to work in the South African Native Labour Contingent (SANLC). In general the native police and NCOs were recruited from tribal chiefs or high-status native families. Some 20,000 South Africans worked in the SANLC during the war. They were not meant to be in combat zones, but there were inevitable deaths when the docks or transport lines on which they worked were bombed. The greatest tragedy was the sinking of the troopship SS Mendi on February 21, 1917, when 617 members of the SANLC were drowned in the English Channel. (National Library of Scotland) #
German troops in Finland during the Finnish Civil War, part of a series of conflicts spurred on by World War I. Red troops, both men and women, ready for deportation from Hango, in April of 1918. Two main groups, "Reds" and "Whites" were battling for control of Finland, with the Whites gaining the upper hand in April of 1918, helped by thousands of German soldiers. (National Archive/Official German Photograph of WWI) #
A group of female carpenters work in a lumber yard in France, constructing wooden huts. While they do not have a uniform, all the women appear to be wearing a protective coat or pinafore over their clothing. It is thought this photograph was taken by the British official photographer, John Warwick Brooke. Q.M.A.A.C. stands for Queen Mary\'s Army Auxiliary Corps. Formed in 1917 to replace the Women\'s Auxiliary Army Corp, by 1918 around 57,000 women made up the ranks of Q.M.A.A.C. (National Library of Scotland) #
During downtime, soldiers from Britain, France and the USA, plus some members of the Women\'s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) watch French children playing in the sand, in France, during World War I. (National Library of Scotland) #
Three young-looking German prisoners of war. Their clothes are caked in mud and are a mishmash of styles. The soldier on the left still has his helmet, but the others have bandages wrapped round their heads. (National Library of Scotland) #
Watched by a group of locals, German prisoners of war walk down a street in the French town of Solesmes, on November 1, 1918, near the end of World War I. (Henry Armytage Sanders/National Library of New Zealand) #