• Tom Marshall

The Lost Tommies in Colour


In 2011 a team of researchers, led by Australian journalist Ross Coulthart made an incredible discovery, when they uncovered a collection of hundreds of photographs from World War One.

The photographs were taken by a French couple, Louis and Antoinette Thuillier during the First World War and are a fantastic and very natural collection of portraits of Allied soldiers who were billeted in the village when they were away from the trenches.

The collection of images lay undiscovered for a century in the attic of a French farmhouse in the village of Vignacourt for almost one hundred years. Ross Coulthart has since collected the images together in a book called 'The Lost Tommies'.

When the BBC's The One Show began a public plea to try and identify these Lost Tommies, colourisers for the WW1 Colourised Photos Facebook page rose to the challenge and led by Doug Banks, started to colourise these fascinating images, in order to bring the subjects 'to life' and help the Lost Tommies appeal.

I have been colourising photos for a number of years, and when Doug suggested the colourising project, I was delighted to make my contribution, by colourising the images featured in this article.

Of the hundreds of pictures, I chose these particular ones because of their clarity, and crispness of the faces. I believe that colour can add another dimension to a person's face, and aid in recognising family resemblances in old photographs, hopefully aiding the campaign to identify the Lost Tommies.

I have included the original images and my colourised and restored versions below. None of the men in these photographs have been identified, and this is just a tiny selection of the thousands of images in the collection. Colourised contrbutions from other artists can be seen on the WW1 Colourised Photos Facebook page, and the original images are included in Ross Coulthart's book.

Please note, the original images in this article are all courtesy of Ross Coulthart, author of

‘The Lost Tommies’ & The Kerry Stokes Collection - Louis & Antoinette Thuillier.

All colourised versions are © Tom Marshall (PhotograFix) 2016.

The first image is of a Lance Corporal in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

I was drawn to the eyes in this photograph. They look like the eyes of a man who has seen too much. When colourising the images it's impossible to know the subject's eye colour from the black & white image. As his hair is light and fair, blue eyes are a guess, and in turn make the image more striking.

Below is an unknown British Colonel. He is wearing the Military Cross medal ribbon, but I have not been able to work out the other ribbons. Based on his age, rank and the shades of grey, I have painted these as Boer War campaign medals, though this is merely speculation as I don't know his identity.

This soldier of the Durham Light Infantry looks the classic 'movie star' soldier. He is sporting the ribbon of the Military Cross and may well have been a well known man.

A soldier of the British West Indies Regiment.

An unconventional pose, highlighting the more casual approach to many of these photos. This man has Two Years Overseas Service chevrons on right sleeve and a Good Conduct (Three Years) chevron on his left sleeve.

An rather tired looking soldier from the Army Service Corps. The ASC later became the RASC and was responsible for land, coastal and lake transport, air dispatch, barracks administration, the Army Fire Service, staffing headquarters' units, supply of food, water, fuel and domestic materials such as clothing, furniture and stationery and the supply of technical and military equipment.

A soldier from the Middlesex Regiment.

A soldier (possibly of the Leeds Rifles) sporting an injured hand.

A soldier of the Army Service Corps.

This final image is a departure from the other portraits, showing an unknown British Tommy from the 'A' Squadron, the North Irish Horse Regiment.

This selection of images is a tiny fraction of the photos found in Vignacourt. Fellow colourisers are also working on their own versions of the images, which can be seen on the WW1 Colourised Photos Facebook Page.

I would like to thank Ross Coulthart for his permission to include the photos in this article, and The Kerry Stokes Collection - Louis & Antoinette Thuillier Images for making them available in the first place. Ross Coulthart's book 'The Lost Tommies' is a William Collins publication, and is available to purchase online and in all good bookshops.

If you should happen to recognise any of the men in these photographs, please get in touch. Links to the full photo albums can be accessed here.

If sharing any part of this blog post, please include the following credits:

Original images courtesy of Ross Coulthart, author of ‘The Lost Tommies’ & The Kerry Stokes Collection - Louis & Antoinette Thuillier.

All colourised versions are © Tom Marshall (PhotograFix) 2016.

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I am delighted to have had this blog featured by the following websites. Please click the links below to read their articles. If anyone would like to share the content of this article on their site/publication, please get in touch via my contact page.

Argunners Magazine

PetaPixel

Milly Wonford's Blog

Warfare Military History Magazine

The Daily Mirror

The Mail Online

The Times

War History Online

BBC Midlands Today

The Shropshire Star

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