Extraordinary Film Footage WW1 Facial Masks

One of the most intriguing and moving pieces of footage I have seen for a long time:

This film made in 1919 shows the sculptors Anna Ladd & Francis Derwent- among others – fitting tin facial masks to WW1 soldiers with terrible disfigurements. 
Riveting viewing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9xMZeGw1X4

From the 1st day of the battle of the Somme on July 1st 1916 when 23,000 men were killed and another 60,000 allied soldiers wounded, the Red Cross began this workshop in London and in  Paris to help repair men with shattered faces.

tin noses eye specsThey used galvanised copper “the thinness of a visiting card”  and painted it whilst on the man’s face to match his skin colour.

The artists were determined to pitch the paint tones for both bright and cloudy days and even to imitate the bluish hue of shaven  cheeks.

derwent and anna ladd face maskThese masks took months to produce. Hair, eyebrows and lashes were made from real hair.

mask 1Still, their faces were static and expressionless for all time but at least they no longer terrified children or horrified adults.

Many soldiers wrote:

“Thanks to you I will have a home.”
mask_pair4“The woman I love no longer finds me repulsive – as she had a right to do“.

There are almost no masks left and they only lasted a few years as they were in constant use.

So few if any survive today.

Most masks were buried with their owners

Photo credits Smithsonian, IWM and wikipedia

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One response to “Extraordinary Film Footage WW1 Facial Masks

  1. Pingback: Top 9 Facts about World War 1 - WAR HISTORY ONLINE·

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