A soldier eclipsed by an explosion in the distance brings The Independent's 98 for 98 series to 1917. This dramatic image from The Hulton Getty Picture Collection, captures a soldier where he would have feared to tread: the area between the trenches didn't have the protection of either side and was called No-Man's Land. It was where soldiers were at their most vulnerable.

Who was on what side of the trenches changed this year as alliances shifted and more countries entered the war like Panama and Cuba. America had been hard-pushed to sustain its neutrality, especially when Germany sunk a US ship in February. The concept of "armed neutrality" was floated for a while but it became clear by April that America must also enter No-Man's Land. The vote to declare war was almost unanimous - a zealous response which unnerved at least one man, President Wilson, into giving a wept and barely disguised warning; "My message was one of death for young men. How odd it seems to applaud that."

Russia was preoccupied with internal battles as people suffered from the food crisis and advancing German troops. It was in this climate of fear and hunger that the historic Russian Revolution began in March with the abdication of Czar Nicholas II and the setting up of a provisional government.

The Third Battle of Ypres finally raised questions about No-Man's Land and the rising casualties. As British soldiers coped with the heaviest load of shells yet, it seemed that stoicism and heroism were the fundamental motivation for this battle, rather than the opportunity for substantial gains.

Jennifer Rodger

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