The Working Party, 1917 (c)
Oil on canvas, by Richard Tennant Cooper (1885-1957), 1918 (c).
During the First World War (1914-1918) all front-line regiments detailed working parties to undertake tasks such as repairs and extensions to the trench systems, reconnaissance and, sometimes, recovery of the dead and wounded. Any work in the open meant that they had to operate at night to avoid being picked off by enemy marksmen. But it remained a risky operation as the dazzling white light of flares could still suddenly expose them.
Here, a party of sappers set off, led by an officer (such as the artist himself was), carrying duckboards and equipment for laying down barbed wire defences.
Educated in Tonbridge, Kent, Richard Tennant Cooper trained as an artist in Paris, but in 1914 he volunteered as a private in 16th (Service) Battalion (Public Schools), The Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex Regiment). In 1916 he was given a temporary commission as a second lieutenant in the Royal Engineers. He was promoted temporary lieutenant in July 1918 and captain in November that year. His obituary in 'The Times' recorded that he was 'appointed MBE (Military Division) for his source-work on camouflage with Solomon J Solomon RA', as well as being an 'official war artist' for 'The Graphic'.
NAM Accession Number
National Army Museum Copyright
National Army Museum, Study Collection
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