Marching Off To War – World War 1
The expression “marching off to war” is used figuratively these days, but in 1914 it was really how soldiers went to their death. Entire regiments and battalions would march in packed formations off to the front lines, often accompanied by marching bands meant to stir up patriotic fervor and hold up morale.
When the first world war broke out in 1914, the generals and the armies they led still had romantic notions of how war used to be fought with cavalry and sabers, and colorful uniforms with plumed head dresses. That era had passed, but it would take several years of war for these romantic illusions to evaporate in the horrors of trench warfare.
Until then, both sides clung to their traditions and romantic illusions about war.
In this photo from 1914, a German marching band is marching through a village in an unknown location. Everyone seems calm so it may be inside Germany.
Someone in the back is carrying a large wooden cross, perhaps hoping for divine protection or as a talisman that their cause was just. None of the men are wearing metal helmets. I wonder how many of them ever came back from the trenches.
Below are some magnified views of the same photograph.
And here is a closeup of the rear of the column of German soldiers marching off to war. Bringing up the rear are some soldiers carrying the cross. In the background you can also see some soldiers not part of the procession who are standing about, as well as horses and horse drawn carriages.