Inspired by Daisy’s exceedingly helpful piece of research on the location of the image on one of yesterday’s postcards, it once again seems appropriate to make a change for today’s. So here we have a colour image showing the cathedral at Rheims on fire during the German shelling over the course of 18th & 19th September 1914.
There’s a bit more to the colour picture than may at first meet they eye; note that the scaffolding is in mid-collapse, which explains the stream of people running for their lives beneath it,…
…and in reality it was the wooden scaffolding around the cathedral’s north tower that, on catching fire, helped spread the blaze. Of the statues at the front of the cathedral, those at the base of the north tower (above) suffered the most damage.
Over the next four years several hundred more shells would hit the remains of the cathedral,…
…and many thousands more…
…would reduce much of Rheims to ruins.
Pictures of destruction, usually showing the after-effects of shelling on towns and villages and often individual buildings within, were frequently featured on French-manufactured cards, huge quantities of which were used by both French & British soldiers, and thus many found there way back here to Blighty.
I would hazard a guess that more images of shattered towns and villages and similar found their way on to French postcards than any other subject, ostensibly for patriotic – this is what we are fighting for – reasons, but in reality, just as likely for economic ones.
Because there was little expense involved, barring the photographer’s fee (and he may well have been on a retainer) – no models required, no swooning sisters, no sets – just get a photo of a shattered street or building sent quickly back to Paris, not far away, stick it on a card, print out multiple copies, and off to market with you. Although none of the cards in this post are used, the names of some of the manufacturers and photographers are revealed either on the front (below left) or reverse (above). There appear to be at least six different companies represented here, among just ten cards, all competing with each other using basically the same image, that of the destruction of Rheims.
Big thanks to Duncan the Elder, last seen in Witley Cemetery (that doesn’t sound quite right…), who quite recently passed on to me, because he looks out for stuff I might like on his travels, quite a number of these Rheims cards.