Perhaps not surprisingly in view of the need to keep morale at home high, this was not a publication which aimed to expose the full horrors of war, and there are few photographs of actual combat, although some paintings were based on sketches done at the scene. Losses of warships at sea could not be hidden, but in general the Navy was said to be ceaselessly alert protecting the country, with all types of vessels doing their bit. It was stressed that British ships would try to rescue enemy sailors from sinking ships, whereas the Germans would not always do this: “in every case of the sinking of an enemy vessel since the war began, the conduct of our bluejackets to opponents in distress has been marked by the utmost humanity.” (26 January 1916, Vol 7, part 77, p.28). Some events were useful for the purposes of patriotic propaganda, such as the death of Boy First Class John Travers Cornwell, V.C., killed aged 16 on H.M.S. Chester during the Battle of Jutland, and there are photographs of his public interment ceremony in the East End. Overall, the inclusion of so many illustrations perhaps gave the reader an extra insight into the events of the war which would not have been found in a solely textual publication.
As part of my work as a volunteer in the Caird Library, I have been compiling an index for the periodical, which to date has reached the issue for 1917. The index covers only entries relating to maritime matters, mainly concerning the Royal Navy and its warships but also hospital ships, merchant ships, passenger liners and the airplanes of the Royal Naval Air Service. The index is arranged in three sections: Named Ships, Named People, and Subject. Most of the named ships are Royal Navy ships or submarines, but there are others such as the Lusitania, or the occasional trawler which found itself unexpectedly involved in wartime action. The Named People index includes Royal Navy personnel, as well as merchant service sailors and senior figures in the Admiralty. Names of people and ships mentioned in a picture caption, even if they do not appear in the accompanying image, have been noted. The Subject index covers a wide variety of entries, from famous battles to technical items about guns, torpedoes or sea mines, sailors at work or leisure on board destroyers, and lighter subjects such as ships’ mascots (these included an Irish hog called Dennis, a monkey dressed in uniform and more than one cat).
The Illustrated War News is just one of countless items in the Caird Library’s collections relating to the First World War; indexing its maritime content has been immensely interesting, and I hope the index may eventually be of use to researchers.
This article was submitted by Jane, a Caird Library reception volunteer.
If you are interested in looking at the print version of the Illustrated War News, it can be found using the Caird Library online catalogue. Click here. Then click on the order button and enter your registered username and password. Indicate which volume you would like to see and then plan your visit to the Caird Library. If you have any questions, please contact the library staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.