The World War One wasteland: Haunting rare images show apocalyptic destruction on the Western Front
By Simon Tomlinson
PUBLISHED: 11:07 GMT, 21 February 2013 | UPDATED: 18:11 GMT, 21 February 2013
It is could be the scene from a nuclear holocaust.
A once-thriving city reduced to mere rubble, a 700-year-old cathedral barely left standing, trees that proudly lined an idyllic avenue torn to shreds.
There's barely anyone in sight.
But the devastation wrought in these rare, haunting images was caused long before the atomic bomb came into existence.
It is the apocalyptic aftermath of dogged fighting along the Western Front during World War One when Allied and German forces tried to shell each other into submission with little success other than leaving a trail of utter carnage and killing millions.
Apocalypse: This was all that remained of the Belgian town of Ypres in March 1919 after fierce fighting during World War One reduced it to mere rubble
In rehab: An aerial view of Ypres under construction in 1930 which gives an idea of how the city looked before it was bombarded during the Great War
Felled: Trees along an avenue in Locre, Belgium, lie torn to shreds. These images are from a series documenting the devastation caused along the Western Front
Destroyed: The Hotel de Ville in Arras, Northern France, looks more like a medieval ruins after it was heavily shelled during World War One
Shaping nature: A huge bomb crater at Messines Ridge in Northern France, photographed circa March 1919, soon after the end of World War One
Reflected glory: A peaceful pond is what remains today of the craters made by massive mines on the Messines Ridge near Ypres. Their explosion was heard in London
At its height, the city was a prosperous centre of trade in the cloth industry known throughout the world. After the war, it was unrecognisable.
Its stunning cathedral, St Martin's, fared little better.
Outside of the towns and cities, the countryside also cut a sorry sight.
Sorry sight: The Cloth Hall at Ypres, which was one of the largest commercial buildings of the Middle Ages when it served as the main market for the city's cloth industry
Standing proud: How the Cloth Hall looked just before before the 1st bombardment by the Germans during the first battle of Ypres in October 1914
Doomsday: St Martin's cathedral at Ypres, which was rebuilt using the original plans after the war. At 102 metres (335 ft), it is among the tallest buildings in Belgium
Devastation: St Martin's Cathedral was the seat of the former diocese of Ypres from 1561 to 1801 and is still commonly referred to as such
How it looked before: The cathedral was rebuilt to the original Gothic design, with a spire added, as seen here in 1937
War of attrition: The front wall of the Hotel de Ville at Bethune in Northern France (left) and St Martin's cathedral (right) are barely left standing after heavy shelling
Clear-up effort: The East end of the Nave in the Basilique at Saint-Quentin in Northern France photographed soon after the end of World War One, circa March 1919
The moat and the ramparts at Ypres: The city was the centre of intense and sustained battles between the German and the Allied forces
Some 7.5million men lost their lives on the Western Front during World War One.
The front was opened when the German army invaded Luxembourg and Belgium in 1914 and then moved into the industrial regions in northern France.
In September of that year, this advance was halted, and slightly reversed, at the Battle Of Marne.
Wasteland: The canal at Diksmuide in Belgium. The Western Front was opened when the German army invaded Luxembourg and Belgium in 1914
Shot to pieces: The wreckage of a tank. Some 7.5million men lost their lives on the Western Front during World War One
Forlorn: A little girl cuts a sorry figure surrounded by the ruined buildings in the French village of Neuve Eglise, which was heavily bombed
In the line of fire: Two soldiers pose for the camera at a Franco-British frontier post in Northern France during the war
This line of tunnels remained unaltered, give or take a mile here and a mile there, for most of the four-year conflict.
By 1917, after years of deadlock that saw millions of soldiers killed for zero gain on either side, new military technology including poison gas, tanks and planes was deployed on the front.
Thanks to these techniques, the Allies slowly advanced throughout 1918 until the war's end in November.
But the scars will forever remain.