Library resources for researching World War I: visual resources

For the past nine months our blog has been focusing on printed and archival resources for researching World War I and its aftermath. At last it’s the turn of the Library’s “visual resources” – ever-present in the blog and on our Facebook page, but well worth exploring in greater depth. They encompass a wealth of material, including photographs, art works, prints, postcards, costume and artefacts, valuable both as a historical resource in their own right and as a rich trove of illustrative matter. We are delighted to have been able to source and supply images for a host of displays, books, pamphlets, educational resources and websites marking the centenary of World War I.  

This post provides an overview of the Library’s visual resources for World War I.


Visual resources in the archives of Quaker organisations

 Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU)

Among the records of the Friends Ambulance Unit (1914-1919)  (TEMP MSS 881) are photographs, prints and other visual material in the following series:

Friends Emergency & War Victims Relief Committee (FEWVRC)

The newly catalogued and re-packaged Friends Emergency & War Victims Relief Committee archive includes a very large collection of visual material (YM/MfS/FEWVRC/PICS) documenting Quaker relief work in England, France, Holland, Poland, Russia, Germany and Austria, 1914-1926, in 21 boxes (242 folders, 28 photograph albums and 2 scrapbooks) and 7 small boxes (glass plate negatives). Our online exhibition, World War I: responding with compassion gives a glimpse into the collection.

Unloading barrels of cod liver oil

Unloading barrels of cod liver oil, from FEWVRC Russia Famine album (Library reference YM/MfS/FEWVRC/PICS/7/1/63)


Visual resources in personal collections held by the Library

Some collections of personal papers relating to World War I are rich sources of visual material – drawings, photographs, postcards, scrapbooks, badges and clothing. Some prominent examples are:

  • Florence Barrow papers on Russia (TEMP MSS 590) including photographs from Efimovka, Russia, 1917 and Sermaize, France
  • Paul S. Cadbury papers (TEMP MSS 999) including Friends Ambulance Unit photographs, postcards, sketches, badges and uniforms
  • Rachel E. Wilson papers (TEMP MSS 1000) including photographs, sketch book and medal
  • Terence Lane papers (TEMP MSS 585) including prison badge, postcards and concert programmes relating to his imprisonment as a C.O.
  • Edward Horner (Library reference 93/ALBUM 31 and 32) – two albums of photographs documenting  FEWVRC  work with refugees in and around Dôle (including the Maison Maternelle at Châlons-sur-Marne) and work on board the hospital ship “Western Australia”).


Edward Horner album

Page from Edward Horner FEWVRC album – scenes from Maison Maternelle de la Marne (Library reference: 93/AL 31)


Visual resources – World War I works of art and objects

The Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU) numbered several artists among its members. Some of their work was used to illustrate the official history, Tatham and Miles, The Friends Ambulance Unit 1914-1919.  

Cotterell, Ambulances at Gizaucourt

Ambulances at Gizaucourt by Arthur N. Cotterell, in FAU Autograph book (Library reference MS VOL S 284)

R. W. Nevinson (1889-1946), later an official war artist, served with the FAU from October 1914 to January 1915, working as stretcher bearer, driver and orderly. The Library holds a first edition of Modern war: paintings by C.R.W. Nevinson (1917), which includes reproductions of paintings like “La patrie” (one of the Tatham and Miles illustrations above), “Motor ambulance driver”, “The doctor”, and “In the observation ward”.

Ernest Procter (1886-1935), the most well-known of the Quaker artists in the FAU, was stationed at Dunkirk. Though not an official war artist, Procter sketched and painted his experiences. The Imperial War Museum has many more of his World War I paintings and drawings, but we do have a set of ten black & white and colour prints among the FAU archives described above (TEMP MSS 881/PRI/EP) and a sketch, Kitchen Dugout, France 1917 (F081).

Less well known is Donald Wood (1889-1953), a Leeds artist who was stationed with SSA19. For some years the Library has held two panels of a triptych entitled ‘The passersby on a road near La Panne, Belgium, 1916’.  We have the middle panel and the right panel (Library references PIC/F002 and PIC/F183), but the whereabouts of the left panel is unknown. Both these panels have been cleaned, repaired and framed.


Detail of La Panne by Donald Wood

Detail of La Panne by Donald Wood (1916) (Library reference F183)

Described on his FAU personnel card as a wallpaper manufacturer, Arthur N. Cotterell (born 1885) is well represented in the collections. Sets of prints of his sketches of FAU SSA13 and the area of France where they were stationed are held in the Paul S. Cadbury Papers (TEMP MSS 999/4/7) and the FAU archives (TEMP MSS 881/PRI/COT and TEMP MSS 881/PRI/SSA13)

A little gem from the manuscript collection is the Autograph book of Friends Ambulance Unit members from 1914 to 1917 (MS VOL S 284) presented to Leslie B Maxwell (1894-1953) on his retirement as officer in command of the FAU at the end of 1917. The book was signed and illustrated by FAU members, with original contributions by Allen Chandler, Arthur N. Cotterell, Sims May and Ernest Procter.

Ernest Procter's room, France

Ernest Procter’s room, France, in FAU Autograph book (Library reference MS VOL S284)


Marne 1914-1919 is a small bronze sculpture by Ethel Pye (1882-1960) located in our Reading Room. Ethel Pye, a sculptor working in bronze and wood, was the youngest of seven siblings. One of her sisters was Edith M. Pye (1876-1965), nurse, midwife and Friends War Victims Relief Committee (FWVRC) worker, who established a maternity hospital for refugees in Châlons-sur-Marne, France (Maison Maternelle de la Marne), during the war. Ethel Pye also went to Châlons-sur-Marne for FWVRC in 1917. She later presented a replica of her sculpture to the Châlons Maison Maternelle de la Marne as a memorial to the remarkable work of the FWVRC.


Objects from World War I and the post-war years can also be important visual resources. These range from medals and certificates awarded to individuals for relief work abroad to embroidered textiles produced by refugee women, or the toys and woodwork made by prisoners of war at Knockaloe Camp, Isle of Man. These objects can be seen from time to time in Library displays and elsewhere (the current display on the work of FEWVRC shows a selection of handicraft from POW camps, such as wooden toys, metal ornaments and embroidery). To find out more, contact the Library.

Metal fox made by POWs at Knockaloe

Metal fox made by POWs at Knockaloe, Isle of Man (Library reference MO52)


Rachel E. Wilson nurse's uniform and photographs

Apron and armbands worn by Rachel E Wilson (later Cadbury) while working as a Friends Ambulance Unit VAD in World War I, with photographs. Part of the Rachel E. Wilson Papers (Library reference: TEMP MSS 1000)






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1 Response to Library resources for researching World War I: visual resources

  1. Pingback: Quaker Strongrooms blog at the turning of the year | Quaker Strongrooms

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