The Vault

Photos of Belgium’s Ravaged Landscapes, in the Immediate Aftermath of World War I

To put together a new book of images of World War I, The First World War: Unseen Glass Plate Photographs of the Western Front, Carl De Keyzer restored original plates made by photographers whose work, in their own time, was printed without fanfare and viewed at a much smaller size. De Keyzer’s book offers photographs of soldiers, civilians, and landscapes in a large format that represents the war with startling clarity. 

Some of the most striking images in the book are this series of photographs by Arthur Brusselle, from Bruges. In 1918 and 1919, the Belgian government commissioned Brusselle to go to the places where the war had hit hard and record what he saw. These plates are held by the archive of the City of Bruges. 

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Two of the towns in the photographs below—Diksmuide and Nieuwpoort—were the sites of the Belgian Army’s final stand against the invading German Army, in October 1914. Pushed to the coast, the Belgians, accompanied by British and French troops, created a 22-mile defensive line from Nieuwpoort to a village named Zuidschote. The nearly monthlong Battle of the Yser, during which the Belgians purposefully flooded part of this landscape in order to deter German advances, ended in defeat for the Germans and allowed Belgium to keep a small percentage of its land under its own control. 

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Arthur Brusselle, “Diksmuide” (1918–19). 

Photograph © City Archive Bruges.

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Arthur Brusselle, “Diksmuide” (1918–19). 

Photograph © City Archive Bruges.

Arthur Brusselle, “Diksmuide” (1918–19). 

Photograph © City Archive Bruges.

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Arthur Brusselle, “Diksmuide” (1918–19). 

Photograph © City Archive Bruges.

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Arthur Brusselle, “Ravaged Regions” (1918–19). 

Photograph © City Archive Bruges.

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Arthur Brusselle, “Diksmuide” (1918–19). 

Photograph © City Archive Bruges.

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Arthur Brusselle, “Ravaged Regions” (1918–19). 

Photograph © City Archive Bruges.

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Arthur Brusselle, “Nieuwpoort” (1918–19). 

Photograph © City Archive Bruges.

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Arthur Brusselle, “Nieuwpoort” (1918–19). 

Photograph © City Archive Bruges.

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