Why the poet Isaac Rosenberg is not shown in First World War archive footage

A story in the Observer newspaper states that the poet Isaac Rosenberg has been identified in archive footage in which a stretcher bearer in the front right of the frame is ‘staring out at the camera with a haunted look’ (photo below). The article states that the date and location of the film are yet to be identified.

The soldier in the bottom righthand corner is believed to be first world war poet Isaac RosenbergHowever I recognised the still as showing the same scene as a photograph by the British official photographer J. Warwick Brooke (Q 5732) (below) which enables the footage to be identified as having been taken on 31 July 1917 at Pilckem, on the opening day of the Third Battle of Ypres.

Q 5732

Furthermore, the photograph caption identifies a wounded man being treated as an officer of the Irish Guards. The ‘Rosenberg’ figure is not in the Brooke photograph but another stretcher bearer is clearly recognisable (identified by the ‘S B’ armband) standing on the right. This man can also be seen to be wearing a distinctive cloth ‘Irish Guards’ badge on his shoulder and this badge can also just be discerned on the ‘Rosenberg’ figure. Rosenberg served with the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment (attached for a time to the Royal Engineers) rather than the Irish Guards and whilst, on occasion, he did duty carrying wounded there is no evidence that he was a regimental stretcher bearer. On the day that the photograph was taken the 40th Division, in which Rosenberg was serving at the time, was about 60 miles to the south and did not take part in the Third Battle of Ypres.


Isaac Rosenberg

We will visit the location where Isaac Rosenberg lost his life and his place of burial as part of ‘Words, Music and Landscapes,’ a four-day tour of the Western Front looking at the lives of war poets and composers, 25th-28th July 2017.

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5 thoughts on “Why the poet Isaac Rosenberg is not shown in First World War archive footage

  1. Hello Simon I’d be very grateful if you would let me know which figure in the photo is wearing an Irish Guard Flash and where he’s positioned. I take it, it is a Tactical Recoginition Flash. For the life of me I’ve enlarged the photo but still can’t see it. My interest is Rosenberg’s service with the 12 Bat. Suffolk Reg. (the Bantams) Regards and many thanks. James

    • James
      It is the embroidered ‘IRISH GUARDS’ shoulder title worn at the very top of the sleeve. The best reference photo I can find at the moment showing the shoulder badge is unfortunately of re-enactors but it shows it fairly well

      I have a better reproduction of the Brooke photo which shows it more clearly. Once you can see it on the man standing with his hands on his hips in the Brook photo, you can see (in my view!) that the ‘Rosenberg’ figure is also wearing it, even on the small version on the web.
      regards
      Simon

  2. The best resolution to the puzzle would, I suppose, be to try to find other photos of the regiment and see if the man in question could be identified as being someone else.

  3. Firstly, that’s a good spot. The cine-cameraman and photographer are covering the same event – the medical officer (a captain) and various others are clearly visible in both the photograph and still.

    The mustachioed SB is wearing an Irish Guards shoulder title in the photograph. However, there is not enough visual detail to categorically state that the man in the film still (IWM 162) is also sporting an Irish Guards shoulder title (he might well be, but without a higher resolution image, it is conjecture).

    What is more telling is arguably the location – it is hard to believe that Rosenberg, attached to 229 Field Company, RE at around this time would be anywhere near Pilckem on or about the 31st July 1917 – he should have been a long way further south.

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