Thursday, June 30, 2016

Uncovered – Somme sketch for Nurse Olive Swanzy

An article in today’s issue of the Belfast Telegraph profiles the life of Nurse Olive Swanzy, who served at Rouen Hospital during the Somme campaign. Nurse Swanzy collected a treasure trove of pictures, poems and other documents created by the soldiers she cared for. One of her patients was Fergus Mackain, who was wounded at the Battle of Delville Wood on July 27th, 1916, while serving with the 23rd Royal Fusiliers:

“Among the artwork is a sketch by Private Fergus Mackain, an illustrator by trade, from New York, who designed humorous postcards for soldiers to send home to their families. The postcards, which became known collectively as the Tommy's Life series, provide a vital document of real life in the trenches.”

The picture, titled “Last Lap”, shows Mackain being chased around a tree by a German artillery shell. The caption reads “Pte. F. E. Mackain busy capturing Delville Wood July 27th 1916”.

The illustration is very much in Mackain’s style, and provides another perspective of his experiences while “Up the Line”:


The article accompanies an episode of the BBC TV program “The Arts Show” about the role of artists during WW1.