The Canterbury artist Archibald Nicoll enlisted with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in December 1914 and arrived at the front lines of the Battle of the Somme on the 20th August 1916 as a member of the NZEF's 4th Reinforcements Field Artillery Unit.
Becordel lay behind the lines of the battlefields of the Somme and as can be seen in Nicoll's painting the village suffered severe damage as the intense battle raged. It was the location of both a large Allied artillery depot and medical facilities. It was also a place for troops to pull back to for some rest from the fighting. The drawing above, by the Scottish artist Muirhead Bone, depicts the same destroyed church tower at Becordel as Nicol painted in Becordel AD1916. It is in the collection of the Tate Gallery, London.
A few weeks later on 24 September he was severely wounded and his right leg was amputated back at the New Zealand General Hospital at Brockenhurst, England. The Gallery owns a very personal painting by Nicoll relating to his time at the front. Becordel AD1916 was painted in 1930 and as Neil Roberts has suggested it is a work in which Nicoll progresses "...an idea he had explored in an etching made many years earlier, based around his experience of witnessing the destruction of the village of Becordel in the Somme Valley, where in 1916, thousands of New Zealand soldiers lost their lives. This was, in a sense, a memorial statement to a war that Nicoll, through his own personal loss, carried with him every day of his life." (Neil Roberts, Archibald Nicoll, 2000, Christchurch, p.19)