History in Pics

Australian soldier

An Australian soldier playing with his pet kangaroo in front of the pyramids, Egypt, 1914.

The photo was taken at Mena Camp, on the outskirts of Cairo, where many Anzacs lived in the months before the Gallipoli landing. The kangaroo in the picture, believed to have belonged to the 9th or 10th battalion, was by no means the only marsupial the soldiers smuggled to Egypt.

Kangaroos and wallabies were a common sight in the Australian camps at Mena, Heliopolis, and Ma’adi in 1914-15. There was at least a dozen, and they were mentioned frequently in soldiers’ letters home.


Deadwood, USA

Deadwood, USA, 1876.

For some historical perspective, this is the year Wild Bill Hickok was murdered in Deadwood. It’s also the same year as the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and only about 250 miles away.


Loading Aircraft

American crewman loading a transport aircraft with the help of an elephant in India during World War 2, 1944.

The China-Burma-India Theater of Operations is an often overlooked area of the war. The United States provided a lot of logistical support. They would supply the Chinese by flying cargo planes over the Himalayas, since the Chinese lost access to the sea, and once the Japanese invaded Burma that supply route was also unavailable. Simultaneously they also built the Burma Road, a land supply route that never got used very much by the war’s end, but its existence ensured logistics in that area would keep working even without regular cargo plane flights.


Elephant mounted machine gun

Elephant-mounted machine gun, 1914-1918.

Guns have been mounted on top of elephants for as long as armies with elephants had access to firearms. But, by the time the MG was invented, armies using elephants as anything other than beasts of burden was a thing of the distant past.


Face Mask

Mrs. Ladd coloring one of the masks after adjusting on a wounded Poilu’s face, 1917. These masks were made for men with disfigured faces from war wounds.

Surgery and skin grafting was an option for some, but many sustained injuries that went beyond the ability of surgery to repair. These unfortunate soldiers turned to portrait masks. Pioneered by English sculptor Captain Derwent Wood, and improved upon by American sculptor Anna Coleman Ladd, portrait masks were modeled from photographs taken before the injury and were painted in oils to resemble the former features of the patient.

It started in 1917, when Ladd, who was then a sculptor and socialite living in Boston, read about the work of a sculptor who ran what was called the “Tin Noses Shop”, a mask-making studio for disfigured British soldiers. Inspired, Ladd set up her own studio in Paris and set to work sculpting new faces for those who had lost a piece of theirs in trench warfare.

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