National Geographic : 2014 Aug
A rough carving of a cat (right) may have been a wistful nod to the rodents that were rife belowground. Many soldiers ignored politics and passed their time engraving whimsical cartoons of pets and other animals. “Comic images of the everyday world provided mental relief from the overwhelming stress of the battlefield raging above,” notes photographer Jeff Gusky. A French cavalry officer is depicted on the wall of a quarry (left). At the war’s outset, cavalry forces were part of all the opposing armies and hearkened back to an age of chivalric warfare. But within weeks of the war’s outbreak in 1914, barbed wire and machine guns rendered traditional mounted attacks obsolete. Instead, horses ferried supplies, weapons, and wounded men. Some soldiers used their art to comment directly on the war, as in this carving of the ship Liberty (right), sinking beneath “the disasters of the 20th century.” The artist, a French soldier whose regiment was almost completely wiped out at the battle of Chemin des Dames, may have been despairing over the staggering casualties or protesting German attacks on civilian shipping. A relief of Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg (left), a key leader of the German war effort, peers out from a quarry wall. Portraits of famous figures cover the walls of the underground. Other passages feature images of Kaiser Wilhelm, French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, and U.S. Presi- dent Woodrow Wilson, as well as carvings of Buffalo Bill and Uncle Sam.