Tuesday, 24 October 2017
Photographing the Fallen: Ivan Bawtree and the GRU
Ivan Bawtree had a very different Great War. Working with the Graves Registration Unit of the Royal Engineers, and calling on his pre-war photographic expertise with Kodak, Ivan photographed the graves and cemeteries of France and Belgium. His work survives today as The Bawtree Collection at the Imperial War Museum, and the photograph that appears above is part of that 600-image collection.
Pen and Sword have just published a book about Ivan Bawtree's work, written by his great nephew, Jeremy Gordon-Smith, and it's a cracking read, packed full of Ivan's photographs and augmented by Ivan's diary entries and Jeremy Gordon-Smith's own research. For me personally, with a growing interest in the work of the Imperial War Graves Commission and men like Lutyens and Baker whose architectural excellence can be seen in hundreds of cemeteries and memorials in Britain and on the old Western Front, this book adds some incredibly useful information.
Obviously inheriting some of his great-uncle's photographic skills, there are some cleverly manipulated shots which merge contemporary views with Ivan's original photographs, and there are some great archive images of those early growing cemeteries as well as lighter moments snapped with comrades.
This has to be one of the more profusely illustrated of Pen & Sword's books, published to the usual high standards and including useful notes, a bibliography and index. Better still it is well-written and a fitting tribute to the man behind the lens. If I didn't already have a copy, this would certainly be on my Christmas list.
Photograph © Jeremy Gordon-Smith. Readers may also be interested to know that Ivan Bawtree's service record survives in WO 363. Clicking on the link will take you to it.