4 October 2016

The Liberation of Europe 1944-1945 - The Photographers who Captured History from D-Day to Berlin

The Second World War presented a huge range of challenges to press photography both in terms of its execution and getting the results in print. Life on the home front was the main subject until the invasion of France changed everything in 1944.

Photographers from The Times were part of a talented group who were there to capture the momentous events taking place from the moment the troops stepped ashore, as the Allies fought their way from the D-Day beaches all the way to Berlin. They captured thousands of images of the fighting and its aftermath: bombed-out towns, tanks and the inevitable human death toll, but also troops moving through a scarred landscape, the civilian population in joy and fear, and the daily activities of the soldiers themselves. They were on hand to witness the surrender of German commanders and some of their subsequent suicides, and also when King George VI made history as the first monarch since Henry V to confer knighthoods on the battlefield.

It is an extraordinary archive, yet very few of the images were published, either at the time or since. Mark Barnes, a librarian at The Times, has painstakingly reconstructed the archive over a period of many years, piecing together the journeys these pioneering photographers, masters of their craft, made across Europe.

The Liberation of Europe is a considerable volume, containing 400 images, many of which have been rarely seen, but the key strength is the work Mark Barnes has put in to ensure the captions are intelligent, accurate, and interesting - not an easy task when often the information was scant. This is an excellent addition to the photographic history of the Second World War, and if you have an interest in the NW Europe campaign of 1944-45, I would strongly recommend it.

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