Photo credit: Alfred Charles “Alf” Razzell, © Keith Collman
I celebrate my half-centenary in 2014 and one of my greatest regrets is not having had a conversation with a Great War veteran. I’m old enough to have had the opportunity but I grew up devouring books, magazines and first-hand accounts of the Second World War. Although I visited Ypres in 1983 I remained largely ignorant of the First World War until I began researching my great-grandfather in the mid 1990’s. Time of course marches on and so has the last Great War veteran. All that remains are their stories, letters and photographs.
These feelings resurfaced yesterday when I took delivery of Great War Portraits by Keith Collman. His collection of gorgeous black & white portraits, a tribute to the survivors of the Great War, is truly captivating. Keith has described Great War Portraits as a labour of love and his photographs are a testament to his craft. Some of my favourite images are those taken inside veteran’s homes, including Alexander “Alex” Gibson M.M. who was photographed at the breakfast table wearing his khaki tunic and cap. Another favourite shows the withered hands of Douglas Charles Gerald “Tommy” Thomson holding a well-thumbed copy of “The Honourable Artillery Company in the Great War”, “Tommy” being the last known survivor of that unit. The book also includes many photographs of veterans visiting the battlefields of France and Flanders, including the one shown above of Alfred Charles “Alf” Razzell visiting the Somme. Accompanying each image is a brief biography and personal notes recorded by Keith on the day the photograph was taken.
Great War Portraits can be purchased from Keith Collman’s website but be aware the printing is limited to 1000 copies.
If in hindsight you wish you’d spent time in the company of a Great War veteran then I’m pleased to report that after immersing myself in Great War Portraits I feel as though I have.