While more than a century has passed since World War I ended, physical reminders of the ‘war to end all wars’ are still visible today.
These reminders can be found in Abandoned Locations of World War One, a fascinating new book written by Neil Faulkner, conflict archaeologist/historian.
The book contains more than 180 images of the abandoned detritus from war. It documents bunkers, trench systems and tunnels as well as gun emplacements. It guides the reader from North America to Australia via England.
Faulkner wrote in the introduction to his book: “The struggle ranged form the mud-mires from Flanders to forests of the Argonne to the Polish swamps, to Carpathian passes, to mountains along the Isonzo River, to the slopes at Gallipoli to deserts of Iraq.
‘When war ended with 1.5million deaths and 30million maimed, the conflict left a legacy of material remains that was greater than that of all previous conflicts combined. Many of those remains still exist today.
Scroll down to view some of the striking images in Faulkner’s compendium…
SS AYRFIELD, HOMEBUSH BAY, PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA: ‘This old collier, originally built in a British yard in 1911, did service in both world wars before finding its way to a breaker’s yard in 1972,’ explains Faulkner. Faulkner explains that scrap metal prices plummeted at that point and the break-up was abandoned. The rusting hull has since grown a small forest.
MONTE PASUBIO, TRENTINO, ITALY (LEFT): Faulkner describes the limestone massif of Monte Pasubio as ‘one of the war’s most remote battlefields’. He writes: ‘This massif of jagged peaks and plateaus more than 2,000m (6,500ft) high saw Italians and Austrians engaged in years of attritional warfare in freezing rock-cut trenches and dugouts.’ EDEGEM FORTRESS, ANTWERP, BELGIUM (RIGHT): This was one of 21 forts forming Antwerp’s main line of resistance in 1914, explains Faulkner
EDEGEM FORTRESS, ANTWERP, BELGIUM: Shedding light on the significance of forts like the Edegem Fortress, Faulkner writes: ‘By the late 19th century, the range and power of modern artillery meant that cities had to be defended by rings of forts often placed several miles from the centre’
SANCTUARY WOOD YPRES, BELGIUM – Faulkner reveals how the Schier family decided to keep the ‘trenches and shell-holes’ on their land as an attraction to pilgrims and tourists after the war. The author writes: ‘They later added a museum, now much enlarged, and the site remains one of the best places in which to explore the character of World War I trench systems’
BUNKER HILL 60 ZILLEBEKE BELGIUM: Faulkner explains how the Germans abandoned linear defense by 1917 in favor of depth defense based on separate strongpoints. “Machine-guns would be mounted in concrete pillboxes arranged to create kill zones swept by converging fire,’ he says, adding: ‘Hill 60 was one of the most fiercely contested locations in the Ypres Salient [the battlegrounds surrounding Ypres]’
SEARCHLIGHT EMPLACEMENT BLYTH BATTERY NORTHUMBERLAND ENGLAND: The Blyth Battery was constructed in August 1916 when the east coast defenses against a German naval assault were augmented. Faulkner writes. He continues: ‘The battery comprised two searchlights and two six-inch (152mm) quick-firing guns manned by 80 men’
MACHINE Gun Pillbox, NORTH WALSHAM NORFOLK ENGLAND. Faulkner writes: “Fears about German invasion were very real in the Great War.” He says that trenches were dug, and pillboxes built to prepare for fighting in coastal areas. According to the historian, pillboxes – such as the one pictured – ‘were sited on routeways and were designed as strongpoints within wider defensive systems’
MONTE CENGIO TRENTINO ITALY. According to Faulkner Monte Cengio, a 1,350m high (4,400ft), mountain at the Asiago Plateau’s south edge, was ‘a key Italian defensive position guarding accesses to the Po Valley’. The author writes: “Overwhelmed in June 1916 by Austro–Hungarian attacks, the Italians counter-attacked to capture the mountain. He reveals that the majority of the fortifications you see today were built in 1917, the year after the Austro-Hungarian attack.
MOUNT MAGGIO, TRENTINO, ITALY: In the foreground of this picture and scored across the slopes in the middle-ground are former Great War trenches, reveals Faulkner, who adds that ‘they were placed off the skyline but positioned with clear fields of fire downhill’
MOUNT ZOVETTO ASIAGO PLATEAU IN ITALY: This is a picture of an artillery position on Mount Zovetto. ‘British reinforcements were sent to the Italian front following the collapse at Caporetto in November 1917,’ writes Faulkner. He explains that these heavily camouflaged gun ports had ‘extensive rocks-cut galleries behind’ and were constructed by British artillerymen in 1918.
CINQUE TORRI, DOLOMITES, ITALY: Above you’ll see a trench in the ‘Five Towers’ – which Faulkner describes as ‘a distinctive rock formation some 3,600m (11,800ft) up’
CINQUE TORRI, DOLOMITES, ITALY: Faulkner reveals that the ‘Five Towers,’ where there was sustained fighting between Austrian and Italian troops, was revealed by Faulkner
CINQUE TORRI, DOLOMITES, ITALY: Visitors can explore the ‘Five Towers’ today, where a network of trenches, machine-gun emplacements, observation posts and accommodation areas have been partially reconstructed as an open-air museum, according to Faulkner
GUN EMPLACEMENT MOUNT MOZIC SORISKA PLANINA SLOVENIA Faulkner: ‘This steel guns turret is one the few visible elements of an underground complex of chambers and tunnels on a strategic mountain-top over the Isonzo River.
FORT HERMANN, BOVEC, ISONZO VALLEY, SLOVENIA : Fort Hermann was twinned to Fort Kluze approximately two miles away, Faulkner explains. He writes that this Austro-Hungarian fort was constructed between 1897-1899 to protect a pass near Mount Rombon, just north the Isonzo River. However, Faulkner notes that when fighting spread up the mountainsides, fortifications of this kind ‘proved largely redundant’
KAUNAS FORTRESS LITHUANIA – Above is an aerial photo of Kaunas fortress, which Faulkner describes as a vast defensive complex’. It was built between 1882 and 1915 to protect the Russian Empire’s Baltic flank, extended across 65 square kilometres (25 square miles), according to the historian. Outlining the fate of the fortress, he writes: ‘Defended by 90,000 soldiers in 1915, it succumbed to German assault after 11 days’ resistance, partly due to bombardment by a monster 420mm (16.5in) siege howitzer lobbing one-ton shells’
FORT 48 BATOWICE KRAKOW POLAND – This image shows one of the outer rings of Austro–Hungarian artillery forts in Krakow. It was built in 1880s. Faulkner says. He wrote: “The outer ring contained an inner ring of older city defenses, sometimes from the medieval period.”
PRZEMYSL FORTRESS POLAND – According to Faulkner the Przemysl Fortress was a massive Austro–Hungarian fortress which covered the Carpathian passes. The fortress had 25 smaller forts and 12 artillery reservists.
PRZEMYSL FORTRESS, POLAND: Recounting the fate of the Przemysl fortress in World War I, Faulkner writes: ‘Besieged by the Russians from September 1914, the garrison of 120,000 men, reduced by starvation, finally surrendered in March 1915’
CARPATHIAN MOUNTAINS – Faulkner describes this view over the Carpathian Mountains as a view of the former frontline of German and Russian troops. According to the historian, mountain warfare was confined to passes during World War I. During World War I, attackers tried to flank fixed positions that couldn’t be taken in a frontal attack on the lower ground.
AMMUNITION GALLIPOLI, TURKEY: This is a photo of a collection in Turkey of Mauser cartridges that have been used up. Faulkner says that the German Mauser Gewehr 98 was a standard rifle used by Ottoman infantry throughout World War I.
FORT MISSISSAUGA NIAGARA ON-THE-LAKE (ONTARIO), CANADA: This brick fort was built during the War of 1812 between Great Britain & the United States. He claims it was used as a training fort during World War I, just like many other fortifications.
FORT TILDEN (NEW YORK), UNITED STATES. Fort Tilden was constructed during World War I to protect New York Harbour’s approaches, Faulkner explains. He notes that the fort contained four 12-inch (304mm), coastal defense mortars and four six inch (152mm), guns on pedestal mounts.
SS HEROIC SYDNEY NEW SOUTH WALES AUSTRALIA: If you look above, you’ll see the remains of SS Heroic. Faulkner writes that the steel-hulled steamboat tug was British built in 1909 and was then used by the Royal Navy to perform rescue operations off the Scilly Isles during World War I. According to Faulkner, it served further duty during World War II and was eventually scrapped in the 1970s.
Images are taken from the book Abandoned Places of World War I by Neil Faulkner (ISBN 978-1-83886-045-5), published by Amber Books Ltd and available from bookshops and online booksellers (RRP £19.99)