First World War Graffiti
- David Crossland
15th May 2023
The soldiers of the First World War left a little-known legacy in forgotten caves along the Western Front: thousands of inscriptions and wall carvings that tell stories of courage, pride, hope and fear.
Limestone quarries and bunkers along the front lines in north-eastern France, where the men sheltered, have been rediscovered by archaeologists in recent years. Thousands of British and Commonwealth soldiers pencilled their name, rank and serial number and even their home addresses onto the walls in the agonising awareness that this might be their last trace. In the relative safety of crowded tunnels, they wrote poems and displayed astonishing artistry in the portraits and sculptures they carved into the rough rock.
Whispering Walls takes the reader into the gloom of these timewarp locations under the Western Front where the graffiti, in many cases as clear as if it had been written yesterday, rings out with the question: will I survive?
The book tracks the fates of individual soldiers and presents some of the most striking inscriptions in over 100 photographs. Now that the last survivors have gone, the writings provide fresh insight into their mindset and are helping researchers to trace the missing, over a century after the guns fell silent.