Wings


The First World War has been going for three years and it’s September 1917. As an editorial in a February issue of The Engineer pointed out, time works differently in a war. Events like New Year, Christmas, Easter etc are no longer landmarks in a repeating cycle. Instead they’re just barely noticed punctuations in – as it was then – thirty months of continuous struggle. There’s no year, there’s only a long one-thing-after-anotherness. January doesn’t come around again, as usual, but is succeeded by another January, then another one. This happens, Then this happens. Then this. But already there’s a sense that it can end, and that life may soon return to the normal sense and season.

And this is a bunch of photographs from a supplement to The Engineer, the 21st of September in 1917, a couple of foldouts near page 262. Somewhere in England there’s a factory turning out aircraft, with the familiar red white and blue British roundels (in monochrome).

An English Aeroplane Factory

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Building-up Wing Framework

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Assembling Wing Frames

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Covering the Wings

Just before we get to the last one – have a look at that one above a bit more closely. What’s going on against the back wall of the room? Three women on the right with their hands up, as if dancing a highland reel, and on the left a few chaps in suits just standing around and looking forwards. In fact most of the folk in the room look as if they’re visitors rather than habituées. Anyway – to the last fabulous picture with the bloke in the front, bottom left, looking into the camera and inspiring such confidence and knowhow. The engineer’s moustache, that’s what it is. He must be Northern.

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Building up Wings etc.

Everyone in there looks so busy and alive. Hard to believe there’s nobody in it who’s still around.

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