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15-25 August 1917
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LAC Photos

At the outbreak of the First World War, the Canadian Military did not employ photographers. In fact, photography was banned on the Canadian sectors of the Western Front until 1916, when “official” photographers were hired. The program was organized by Sir Max Aitken and the Canadian War Records Office, and the images were censored before being distributed to the press.
The first official photographer was Captain Harry Knobel. Knobel served as photographer from April - August 1916, until he was granted leave due to mental health issues. He was replaced by Bristol-born press photographer Honorary Captain William Ivor Castle. Castle photographed major engagements like Courcelette and the Battle of Vimy Ridge before returning to London in 1917 to work more directly with the Canadian War Records Office.
Canada’s third and final official photographer, William Rider-Rider, arrived in France in the spring of 1917. The Battle of Hill 70 was the first major engagement he photographed. He would remain on the Western Front photographing the Canadian Corps through every battle until November 11. In the spring of 1919, he escorted the entire collection of Canadian official glass plate negatives to Ottawa, where they remain today.

Rider-Rider remembered photographing Hill 70 decades later. In a 1970s interview, he described the chalky, dusty terrain that made it nearly impossible to get photographs of the fighting.

Still, Rider-Rider took more than 80 photographs around Hill 70 and Lens during the latter half of August 1917—many of which are reproduced below with permission from Library and Archives Canada.
Many of the photographs focus on Canadian soldiers—with weapons, with civilians, and with animals. There is a heavy emphasis on Canadian wounded, but with hints at success: wounded in a captured trench, and wounded being carried by German POWs. Hill 70 was photographed as a victory, but not without a cost.

General Sir Arthur Currie later recommended Rider-Rider for the MBE.
Contributed by Historian Carla-Jean Stokes
To view more Canadian official First World War photographs, click the link below. You can click on “advanced search” to search for keywords like battles, locations, or battalion names. 
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