British artillery position at Ancre (March 26, 1918).

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What’s overwhelmingly likely is that the photograph was taken by a British official photographer–nobody else was permitted to take photographs at the front, and if some soldiers smuggled cameras into the trenches, they certainly wouldn’t be tolerated using them that close to a gun in action. The British seem to have solely used the name Albert throughout the war. Even if they spoke to civilians who insisted on using the old name, why would they use that over the name all the other Brits knew the town by, especially when the photograph was intended for the British, not the French? Albert was not an obscure place by any means–it was the staging area for some of the largest battles of the war, famous for the Leaning Virgin, and millions of British (and French and German) troops passed through–so I can’t believe a mistake would go unnoticed, unlike, say, if one was trying to identify a tiny village. It’s also very unlikely an error could have been taken from an old map, because the British only used French and Belgian maps at the start of the war. They were so outdated and with so little detail that the British remapped their entire part of the front themselves; the Somme region was done in late 1915, in advance of the British take-over of that section, and as we know British maps called it Albert! I just can’t see any reason a Brit would be using the antiquated name so late in the war.

But it would be really easy for someone to misread a caption saying ‘Artillery position at the Ancre’ to miss out the ‘the’. Or maybe it just said ‘Ancre’ all along, and someone just assumed it was a village, not a river–even though any British soldier would know what the Ancre was.

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