• Tom Marshall

100 Colourised Photos of WW1 for the 1918-2018 Centenary

Updated: Jul 26, 2020


I began colourising black and white photos professionally in 2014, coinciding with the centenary of the outbreak of WW1 in 1914.  Around the world there was a renewed interest in a war that had not been fresh in the public memory for many years.

Since 2014 I have been very fortunate to have been able to work with some high profile clients around the world on exhibitions, press articles and books commemorating significant WW1 anniversaries, but I have also been honoured to work on clients personal family photos, which all have unique insights into what was truly the first global conflict.

To mark the centenary of the end of the First World War, I have decided to collate 100 images I’ve colourised in tribute to the men and women who lived through the war, and those who lost their lives.  I have chosen to include men and women of several nationalities, races and religions, as the entire world was affected by the war, and I hope the photos will show an insight into the lesser known stories and events.

Some of the images you may be familiar with, but many have never been published before. 

I have tried where possible to give credit to the original photographers, and the owners/custodians of the original photographs.  Where no credit is given, this is due to a lack of information and I would be happy to amend details if they come to light in future.

My thanks goes to the Facebook page WW1 Colourised Photosa group of fellow friends and colourisers have provided me with helpful advice.  It's impossible to know everything, as hard as I try!

I would especially like to thank my loyal clients and friends who have given me permission to include their personal family photos in this collection as they are by far the most touching images, and they are the most satisfying to ‘bring to life’ in colour.

All colourised images are © Tom Marshall (PhotograFix) 2014-2018.  Original image credits are given after each photo.

Please consider making a donation to the Royal British Legion's Poppy Appeal, or to a local memorial appeal in your home country.

Lest we forget.

1. An unknown soldier of the Middlesex regiment, photographed at Vignacourt, France.

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

2.  A B-type bus converted into a pigeon loft enabling messages to be sent from the front line back to headquarters. The BBC reports that 100,000 carrier pigeons were used as messengers throughout WW1 and records show they delivered 95% of their messages correctly.  Originally colourised for the Open University.

3.  Royal Garrison Artillery gunners pushing a light railway truck filled with shells, behind Zillebeke, 1st October 1917.  Original image courtesy of the National Library of Scotland.

4.  An unknown soldier of the British West Indies regiment, photographed at Vignacourt, France.  Original image courtesy of Ross Coulthart, author of ‘The Lost Tommies’ & The Kerry Stokes Collection - Louis & Antoinette Thuillier.

5.  Bahadur (Bhaz Gul) was a hero of the 59th Scinde Rifles, who was promoted in the field for gallantry at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle (10th–13th March 1915).  With an officer and two other men, he was in a captured German trench when volunteers were called for to rescue some wounded men.

Bahadur volunteered and, though exposed to heavy fire, succeeded in rescuing one man, and went back again to rescue a second, when he was hit by a German bullet and was severely wounded.  Original photo by H.D. Girdwood, courtesy of the British Library.

6.  An unknown soldier from 'A' Squadron, the North Irish Horse Regiment on horseback, photographed at Vignacourt, France.  Original image courtesy of Ross Coulthart, author of ‘The Lost Tommies’ & The Kerry Stokes Collection - Louis & Antoinette Thuillier.

7.  An unknown Lance Corporal in the Royal Army Medical Corps, photographed at Vignacourt, France.  Original image courtesy of Ross Coulthart, author of ‘The Lost Tommies’ & The Kerry Stokes Collection - Louis & Antoinette Thuillier.

8. Original caption: ‘A Boche prisoner, wounded and muddy, coming in on the 13th.'

A British soldier helps a wounded German prisoner walk along a railway track, 1916. 

A man, possibly an official French war photographer is shown behind them, holding a camera and tripod.

The derogatory term for a German, 'Boche’ or 'Bosch’, originates from the French slang 'alboche’, which was two words 'Allemand’ (German) and 'caboche’ (pate, head) put together.  Original image courtesy of the National Library of Scotland.

9.  A shell bursts off the beach of Gallipoli, 1915. The caption on the original image was written by Dr. Andrew Horne of the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), from Ballinasloe, Co. Galway, Ireland. The image comes from an album donated to the National Museum of Ireland by Dr. Horne's two daughters, Patricia and Margaret. 

Taking personal photographs at the time was technically difficult and also illegal, unless taken by officers. Dr. Horne went on to survive Gallipoli and the War.  He later wrote "Nobody can believe we had such a time and came through it alive, but here we are".  Original image © The National Museum of Ireland.

10.  Irish soldiers of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers prepare to go to war.  Taken at Collins Barracks, Dublin in 1915.  Original image © The National Museum of Ireland.

11.  An unknown soldier.

12.  The final resting place of Zeppelin LZ 59 (bombing code L20) known as the ‘Raider of Loughborough' after her part in an attack on the English Midlands.  On 31st January 1916 nine airships, including L20, left Germany and Denmark in order to attack the docks at Liverpool, which would have shocked the British public due to the long range of the attack.

The airships never reached Liverpool and, due to a miscalculation, instead dropped their bombs on several towns including Tipton, Wednesbury, Walsall, Burton upon Trent, Nottingham, Derby, and Loughborough.  L20 killed an estimated 10 people in Loughborough including Mary Anne Page and two of her children, whose names can be seen on a plaque in Loughborough Carillon Tower & War Memorial Museum.

On 2nd May 1916, L20 began its second bombing raid on Britain with the intention of attacking factories and railways in Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees and Hartlepool, and targeting enemy warships near Edinburgh.  However, engine problems and strong winds led the airship to veer off course.  High winds blew her out into the North Sea and to neutral Norway where she crash landed into Hafrsfjord near Stavanger, Norway.  Original image by Hans Henriksen / Stavanger City Archive.

13.  Sappers mining underground, originally colourised for Iain McHenry’s book ‘Subterranean Sappers’, published by Uniform Press.

14.  Thomas Rose of the 6th Iniskilling Dragoon Guards.  Thomas was 16 when he volunteered in 1914 and survived the Great War. Thank you to his Great Nephew Vic Wright for permission to include this photo.

15.  Arthur James Langran served with the Leicestershire Regiment (later Royal Leicestershire Regiment) during the First World War.  His son Peter Francis Langran served with the same regiment during the Second World War.  Thanks to Richard Langran, the grandson of AJ Langran, and son of Peter, who gave me permission to include this photo.  Read my blog about Arthur and Peter here.

16.  Sgt. Ernest Leonard, from Plymouth in Devon.  In addition to working at HM Dockyard Devonport, he was a defender on the Torquay United championship football team in 1909. In 1912, he went to Toronto, Canada, where he became the captain of the Devonian Football Club in the Toronto District Football League. 

When war broke out Ernest enlisted with the 19th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force.  He fought with the Canadian Corps at the battles of the Somme and Arras and was twice-wounded in trench warfare.  Thank you to Ernest’s grandson, G.E. Benton for permission to include this photo.

17.  Second Lieutenant Albert Charles Fricker of the 10th Bn. East Yorkshire Regiment (Hull Pals).  Albert attended Reading University College from 1912-1915 where he took intermediate science and graduated with BSc in 1915.

After graduating, he signed up to fight in France, and died on his 23rd birthday, on the 27th February 1917.  Original Image courtesy of the University of Reading archives.  Included with the kind permission of Chris Smith.

18.  Joshua Riley and unknown soldiers, Vignacourt, France.  Original image courtesy of Ross Coulthart, author of ‘The Lost Tommies’ & The Kerry Stokes Collection - Louis & Antoinette Thuillier.

19. Canadian cyclists, the front cover image of Colin Kirsch’s history of military bicycles in the Great War ‘Bad Teeth No Bar’.  The book takes its name from a WW1 recruitment poster, which promoted the cycle corps for those men whose bad teeth would deem them unfit for general service.  The book is published by Uniform Press.

20.  An unknown 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. 

Photographed at Vignacourt, France.  Original image courtesy of Ross Coulthart, author of ‘The Lost Tommies’ & The Kerry Stokes Collection - Louis & Antoinette Thuillier.

21.  Robert Swalwell, aged 31, from Yarraville, an inner western suburb of Melbourne, Australia.  Robert was a keen pigeoner along with his brothers, and was a husband and father of two young daughters. He joined the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in 1916 during a recruitment drive following the Gallipoli tragedy in 1915.

Robert died in unknown circumstances in France on 3rd May 1917.  Thank you to Glenn Poolen for allowing me to include this photo.

22.  North African soldiers enjoy lunch possibly on farming leave in El Kseur. Note the khaki style uniforms issued to Algerian units. Stood at the back is Charles Déjalma Moucan.  This photo is included with the permission of Moucan’s grandson Andre Chissel.

23.  A lieutenant of the Siamese Transport Corps, in the village of Geinsheim, Neustadt, Germany in 1918.  The Kingdom of Siam (now Thailand) is a relatively unknown member of the allied forces during WW1, but after joining the war on the side of Britain and France, Siam sent an Expeditionary Force to France to serve on the Western Front.

After specialist training and acclimatisation (both to the military style and the climate) the Siamese saw front line action in the middle of September 1918, shortly before the end of the war.  When this photo was taken, Siamese troops were contributing to the occupation of the Rhineland, and took over control of the town of Neustadt. There are still descendants of the Siamese soldiers living in Neustadt to this day. 

Original images kindly provided from the old collections of Geinsheim families by Norbert Kästel of Geinsheim Heimatverein.  Thank you to Stephen Martin who commissioned the colourised version for the upcoming book 'Soldiers of Siam' by Khwan Phusrisom and Stephen Martin, being published by Silkworm Books.

24.  Damage in the yard of the home of vet and blacksmith Mr T.H. Walden in East Street off Albert Street, King’s Lynn, following a Zeppelin raid which took place on 19th January 1915. Despite the huge amount of damage caused by the bomb, the whole family - mother, father and three children - escaped with their lives.  

Next door, however, three of the four occupants suffered injury but only one needed hospital treatment.  Thank you to Ian Castle, author of ‘Zeppelin Onslaught’ for the above information.  Original photo by H.D. Girdwood, courtesy of the British Library.

25.  An unknown soldier, photographed at Vignacourt, France.

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

26.  This is from the first Zeppelin raid on Britain, which took place on 19th January 1915. Two Zeppelins appeared over East Anglia.  Zeppelin L 3 bombed Great Yarmouth and later Zeppelin L 4 appeared over King’s Lynn. This photo is reported to show Mr Fayers who lived at 11 Bentinck Street, King’s Lynn.  A bomb exploded on 12 Bentinck Street, killing 14-year-old Percy Goate.  His parents and 4-year-old sister survived.  

Next door at No. 11, Mr and Mrs Fayers had spent the evening with Alice Gazley who lived nearby.  When they heard explosions, Alice ran out of No. 11 and was killed; although buried in the rubble, Mr and Mrs Fayers sustained only minor injuries, Mr Fayers was ‘cut on head’.  Thank you to Ian Castle, author of ‘Zeppelin Onslaught’ for the above information.  Original photo by H.D. Girdwood, courtesy of the British Library. 

27.  A horse and soldier transporting boots. The path is inches deep in wet mud discernible by the deep imprint round the soldiers boot and the fact that the horses hooves are no longer visible. Rather than cloth puttees though he is wearing long lace-up boots.  

The horse is absolutely laden with rubber trench waders. Horses, due to their reliability and ability to travel over most terrains were crucial to transportation during WW1.  Original image courtesy of the National Library of Scotland.

28.  An unknown soldier, photographed at Vignacourt, France.

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

29.  Soldiers inspect a garden and destroyed cherry tree, following a raid made by a single German aeroplane on Colchester on 21st February 1915. The bomb landed in the back garden of 41 Butt Road, the home of Quartermaster-Sergeant Rabjohn of 20th Hussars and his family.  Rabjohn, his wife and their child escaped injury.  Thank you to Ian Castle, author of ‘Zeppelin Onslaught’ for the above information.  Original photo by H.D. Girdwood, courtesy of the British Library. 

30.  This image belonged to my Great Grandad Charles Smith Wallhead, and was signed 'Yours Frank Sheard, Aug 20, 1917'. From his cap badge I've been able to find out that Frank served with the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment 1914-1918 in the British Army. 

Sadly, I also found out that Frank was killed on 28th August 1918, aged 21 and is buried at the Reninghelst New Military Cemerery in Belgium.  He was the son of Joe Lister Sheard and Alice Sheard of 5 Brick Bank, Almondbury, Huddersfield, West Riding of Yorkshire.

31.  Men of the 8th Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry playing cards near Ypres, 1st October 1917.  Original image courtesy of the National Library of Scotland.

32.  This image belonged to my Great Grandad Charles Smith Wallhead, and was signed 'Yours Sincerely J A Lovell'. From his shoulder badge I've worked out that he served with the Lincolnshire Yeomanry, the same as my Great Grandad, and by searching online have found a record for John Arthur Lovell.

33.  Soldiers inspect damage following a raid made by a single German aeroplane on Colchester on 21st February 1915. Thank you to Ian Castle, author of ‘Zeppelin Onslaught’ for the above information.  Original photo by H.D. Girdwood, courtesy of the British Library. 

34.  An unknown soldier of the Durham Light Infantry.  He is sporting the ribbon of the Military Cross and may well have been a well known man, photographed at Vignacourt, France.  Original image courtesy of Ross Coulthart, author of ‘The Lost Tommies’ & The Kerry Stokes Collection - Louis & Antoinette Thuillier.

35.  Charles Déjalma Moucan, a tirailleur (French for ‘sharpshooter’) of the 4e Régiment de Tirailleurs Algériens (4th Algerian Rifle Regiment) Algerian, Sousse Tunisia circa 1916.  During WW1 tirailleurs from North African territories served on the Western Front as well as at Gallipoli, incurring heavy losses.  Note the “dog tag” on his wrist – two were issued one for the wrist, the other was worn around the neck.

The Great Mosque of Paris was constructed afterwards in honour of the Muslim tirailleurs who had fought for France.  This photo is included with the permission of Moucan’s grandson Andre Chissel.

36.  French cyclists, the back cover image of Colin Kirsch’s book ‘Bad Teeth No Bar’, published by Uniform Press.

37.  An unknown soldier of the Army Service Corps, photographed at Vignacourt, France.  Original image courtesy of Ross Coulthart, author of ‘The Lost Tommies’ & The Kerry Stokes Collection - Louis & Antoinette Thuillier.

38.  Soldiers after crossing the River Somme.   According to the photograph's original caption these soldiers are the first to have crossed the River Somme.  Some of them are clambering up a temporary walkway. Others in the background manage to scramble up the embankment.  The foreground is littered with debris.  Scenes such as this were commonly used as propaganda, intended to boost morale amongst the troops.  Original image courtesy of the National Library of Scotland.

39.  'Their home on the Somme.'  Two officers looking out of a small shelter they appear to have made for themselves.  It seems to have been made of a mixture of corrugated iron, wood and canvas or tar-paper.  As it is built above ground, this must have been well away from the front-line trenches. 

This is one of a number of photographs which illustrate the degree to which shelter was left to the individual soldier.  For officers this was, however, relieved by their greater freedom off-duty to go to nearby towns and villages, or on longer leave to visit Paris.  When billets were available in civilian houses, officers again had the better conditions.  Original image courtesy of the National Library of Scotland.

40.  An unknown soldier, photographed at Vignacourt, France.

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

41. This photograph shows a group of soldiers standing in the entrance to a dugout. Other men are outside, standing beside a washing line with towels on it.  A pot is steaming on a brazier made of a tin drum.  The cap and collar badges of the men are not distinct but appear to vary, suggesting they are from more than one unit.  

This rather domestic scene appears well removed from the reality of the trenches at the Front.  It may have been intended to counter criticism of the campaign by implying that it was better organised than was the case.  Original image courtesy of the National Library of Scotland.

42.  An unknown soldier, photographed at Vignacourt, France.  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.

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

43.  Artillery stripped trees and a signboard pointing the way for pack transport.  The other-worldliness of this ravaged landscape at Courcelette, shrouded in clouds of dust or smoke, leaves a lasting impression. The foreground is littered with many objects, including an abandoned carriage and a sign stating 'pack transport this way.'  Original image courtesy of the National Library of Scotland.

44.  An unknown soldier (possibly of the Leeds Rifles) sporting an injured hand, photographed at Vignacourt, France.  Original image courtesy of Ross Coulthart, author of ‘The Lost Tommies’ & The Kerry Stokes Collection - Louis & Antoinette Thuillier.

45.  British soldiers in a German trench, Messines, Belgium, 1917. Three officers stand outside the mouth of the trench whilst one sits on top of it and one stands inside it. They all appear happy or relaxed, presumably as they have just captured a German trench and all the supplies in it.  Original image courtesy of the National Library of Scotland.

46.  An explosion taking place on the Somme.  According to the existing caption it is a controlled explosion set up by the Royal Engineers, to clear the way for the advance.  

A uniformed soldier, possibly a member of the Royal Engineers, sits on a wooden post watching the explosion.  A retreating army often laid obstacles and sabotaged any equipment or weapons they left behind, in an attempt to hinder any advance.  Royal Engineers, as well as taking part in the fighting, were also responsible for 'combat engineering'; finding solutions to engineering problems on the battlefield.  Original image courtesy of the National Library of Scotland.

47.  Original caption: 'Some jolly gunners and their pet.'

A group of men from the Royal Regiment of Artillery, photographed alongside a long-barrelled field gun, 1916.  For the occasion, they have chalked the words, 'Somme gun' on the side of the barrel. The men are well wrapped with non-uniform scarves, gloves and a balaclava.  

In purely military terms, the heavy artillery of both sides was in many ways more important than any other weapon. It could fire into the opposing trenches with little risk to their own side and could effectively keep the enemy in the trenches.  Original image courtesy of the National Library of Scotland.

48.  Guy Archibald Forrest grew up in Cheltenham and was educated at Uppingham School, Rutland.  He served in the South African Constabulary as a 3rd Class Trooper between 1901 and 1903, fighting in the Boer War for which he was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal.  When WW1 broke, having emigrated to Canada, Forrest enlisted in Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and in December 1914 embarked with the Canadian Expeditionary Force to France, where he fought in the frontline trenches, and was promoted to Sergeant.

After being granted a commission to the British Army, Forrest spent 1916 serving in Northern Egypt, and in August 1916, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps as a Flying Officer (Observer) attached to 14 Squadron, 5th Wing.  He performed reconnaissance in the Hejaz region of Western Arabia in support of Lawrence of Arabia during the early stages of the Arab Revolt.

In May 1917, having been promoted to Lieutenant and attached to 57 Reserve Squadron, 20th Reserve Wing, Forrest took part in a Special Duty Service Flight performing reconnaissance in the Northern Sinai region of Egypt.  For the remainder of 1917, he was Recording Officer for 111 Squadron, 5th (later 40th) Wing, stationed in the Suez.

Returning to Britain in December 1917, Forrest was attached to Home Defence Wing, initially in 39 Squadron whose duties were to intercept Zeppelin bombers attacking London.  He was subsequently attached to 189 Night Training Squadron and then 153 Squadron shortly before relinquishing his commission in January 1919.  For his services during World War 1 Lieutenant Forrest was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, and Victory Medal.

Thank you to Guy’s Great Grandson Giles Forrest for permission to include his photograph and story here.

49.  King George V sitting next to an army commander, Thiepval, France on the site where Thiepval Chateau once stood. The army commander to his right is pointing into the distance and, according to the original caption, recounting the capture of Thiepval.  

This photograph was taken by John Warwick Brooke during one of the King's many visits to the Western Front.  The village of Thiepval was completely destroyed during the Somme Offensive of 1916. A memorial to the missing of the Somme, with no known grave, now stands near where Thiepval Chateau once stood.  Original image courtesy of the National Library of Scotland.

50.  An 18 pounder gun being hauled through the mud at Broodseinde Ridge to a position further forward, in support of the advancing Australians, two days before the initial attack on Passchendaele Ridge, in the Ypres sector. 

Identified, left of the gun, left to right: Gunner (Gnr) W E Drummond Gnr J Brannon (to Drummond's right) Gnr C V Cox (in front of Brannon) two men unidentified behind Cox 34401 Gnr A Hewitt (in front of Cox) Dvr A C Sampson (standing on wheel, back to camera) Gnr G G Dowling (foreground, pulling rope on front wheel).  Right side of gun, left to right: Dvr Hughes Dvr F Peace unidentified unidentified Bombardier T (R ?) Garniss Sergeant W Reynolds (extreme right, standing back).

51.  6’ 7” 'giant' of the Austro Hungarian army, Corporal Istvan Kovacs served 2 years in Vienna as bodyguard of Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary.  Istvan was chosen to be a bodyguard as he was the strongest man in his county.  Throughout the Great War he served in the 69th Imperial and Royal Infantry Regiment.

During his service on the Eastern Front, Istvan fell ill for a short period but returned successfully to his farms in Hungary and to his two sons.  This photo was taken in 1918 and shows him wearing his Charles cross medal.  Thank you to Istvan's Great Grandson Peter Kovacs for allowing me to include his photo and story here.

52.  A soldier of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry washing clothes in an Officer's canvas bath, Ypres-Comines Canal, 1 October 1917.  Original image courtesy of the National Library of Scotland.

53.  An unknown Australian soldier.