In 1915 the British Army created the Army photographic branch to gather intelligence in the First World War. Almost 100 years on and the army have over 40 professional photographers as well as over 1800 amateur snappers within its ranks.

"We use our photographers to support immediate communications, to archive the history of the Army and supply images to the press", General Sir Mike Jackson, Chief of the General Staff told Pocket-lint.

Controlled by the Royal Logistic Corps, the branch is headed by a Warrant Officer Class 1 who goes by the more impressive title of Command Master Photographer. Branch recruitment is by request from another regiment rather than direct application and once accepted soldiers are taught camera techniques among other skill sets.

But by no means think that this is an easy way out. Just as Matthew Modine's character in Full Metal Jacket was an Army Journalist and a solider, so are the men and women who choose to be photographers in the British Army.

"It's a very dangerous job", commented General Jackson, "mainly because our photographers can and do go into more dangerous situations than civilians dare or are allowed".

Although controlled by the Royal Logistics Corps the branch is responsible for all photography in the Army, and their personnel will find themselves attached to the various regiments of the British Army whether than is on the training ground in Catterick, North Yorkshire, or the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.

With such a diverse arena to cover, getting images back to and forth has required the acceptance of technology and the embracing of digital photography.

"In the Falklands we had trouble getting images out. Now it is very easy", General Jackson told Pocket-lint. "The camera is everywhere now and it is a fact of life whether we like it or not."

"That fact of life" has meant that both the British and US forces have in recent months had to deal with a series of accusations of maltreatment of prisoners following photographs that have been leaked or discovered by the press.

While the amateurs might use camera phones, compact digitals or even disposable cameras, the 41 professional photographers use the latest digital kit. Current Army issued kit includes the Nikon D2X with various lenses and a Fuji digital compact for field shots.

"It's great, you get all the kit as part of the job", one soldier told us at this year's Army Photographic Competition.

To encourage photography within the army, every year Army personnel from every regiment can enter the Army Photographic Competition. The aim of the competition is to promote a diverse range of quality images of the British Army at home and on operations, and encourage high standards in technical expertise.

The competition is well supported by the photographic industry and media agencies and offers a wide variety of sponsor prizes. David Bailey judged this year's entries.

But while General Sir Mike Jackson acknowledges that the standard of the photographs is getting "better and better each year" his reservations as to whether the medium will replace the traditional oil paintings commissioned at the end of a regiment's tour are still ever present.

"I think that is very unlikely ... They are complementary not competing. While photographs are great for archiving history you can't capture the same sentiment as you can with an oil painting", said the General.

That doesn't mean this years entrant's shouldn't be rewarded for their efforts. Although the core theme is always present, the subject matters are as varied as the locations the Army is current posted in.