Warrington Road, 1917
Oil on paper by Richard Tennant Cooper (1885-1957), 1926 (c).
Although painted some years after the event, this scene was the work of an eye-witness who served through the entire conflict and was typical of the devastated landscape of the Western Front during World War One (1914-1918). 'Warrington Road' was a track in the Ypres Salient, running from 'Shrapnel Corner' on the Lille Road out of Ypres, past Zillebeke Lake, to the mid-point on the road between 'Hell-fire Corner' and Zillebeke village. Like 'Regent Street', and 'Rotten Row' in 'Plugstreet' (Ploegsteert) Wood, it demonstrates the troops' habit of giving nicknames to well-travelled routes. Little more than duckboard walkways through featureless, muddy landscapes, such 'roads' were often the only way to pass, even at the risk that snipers had lined them up in their sights. The alternative of walking across the terrain could mean getting lost or falling into a shell-hole; in fact many soldiers and draught animals did drown in waterlogged ground.
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'.
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