On the Nethe

September 1914


Transformations of a Photograph

as cover for the British news magazine 'the War Budget'

A quality print from 'Nelson's Portfolio of War Pictures'

Here we see the photo as a hand-colored postcard,
incorrectly entitled as 'Belgian Soldiers on the Yser'.


It is sometimes interesting to see how a single illustration or photograph appeared in different guises and layouts in various magazines throughout the war. Certain photographs, for whatever reasons of subject matter or composition, appeared to be favorites of editors and were used again and again, though not always with the correct captioning or explanation.

This photo of Belgian soldiers in positions behind the river Nethe nearby Antwerp was one such instance. Though certainly not a posed photograph judging from the positioning of the soldiers, it had a certain dramatic flair and lent itself to all manner of heroic interpretaions. While this small section of Belgian troops were probably doing nothing more than sheltering behind a river embankment, news editors thought it permissible to describe them as 'sharpshooters' or soldiers fighting for the life of Antwerp. Publishers were not even above changing venues of location if it served their purposes, as can be seen in a hand-colored British postcard version above. From the banks of the Nethe to the banks of the Yser : a river is a river and the latter was at the time world-renowned, so why not have the gallant little Belgians defending that bit of real estate instead of a river nobody had much recollection of.


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