44 sad, tragic but mesmerising colourised images of WWI

Jack Knight


Infantrymen of the 1st Australian Division during a rest in the dugouts at Ypres, 1917. (Photo taken by Frank Hurley)

“In Ypres the troops often lived in underground cellars, but almost continuous shelling from the German lines made the ruined city nearly as dangerous as the front lines. Getting to and from it from Steenvorde, where Hurley had his quarters and photographic darkroom, was a constantly hazardous undertaking (Sept 23 1917).”

(Colourised by Royston Leonard from the UK)

Infanterie-Regiment Vogel von Falkenstein (7. Westfälisches) Nr.56. (Drakegoodman collection)

urised by Royston Leonard from the UK)10300224_451877261622798_3510408741664926712_n

The British Mk.II (Male) tank Nº.C-47 ‘Lusitania’ of 9 Co. ‘C’ Battalion at Arras, Nord-Pas-de-Calais. April 1917.
On April 9th the ‘Lusitania’ assisted stalled troops at Railway Triangle east of Arras, enabling that objective to be taken. The Lusitania broke down with a magneto failure, and had to be left on the battlefield, where she was destroyed by British gunfire the following day.
(The ‘male’ tank was armed with three 8 mm Hotchkiss Machine Guns and two long barrelled 6 pounder (57mm) naval guns. The intention of the ‘male’ was to attack other gun emplacements and strong points.)
© IWM (Q 3184)
(Colourised by Doug UK)10333424_468661633277694_8044778003712006096_o

B Company, 29th Battalion, 8th Brigade, 5th Division, Australian Imperial Force at
Warfusée -Abancourt, Northern France.
8th August 1918.

Lieutenant Rupert Frederick Arding Downes MC addressing his Platoon from B Company, 29th Battalion, during a rest near the villages of Warfusee and Lamotte before the advance onto Harbonnieres, the battalion’s second objective. The background is obscured by the smoke of heavy shellfire.

Pictured, left to right: 5085 Sergeant (Sgt) William Patrick O’Brien; 4271 Private (Pte) James Cryer; 4103 Pte Charles Alfred Olive; 677 Lance Corporal (L Cpl) Louis Price MM; 5095 Pte Harry James Phillips; 4733 Pte Horace Joseph Buckley; 509 L Cpl Alexander Bethuen Craven; 5088 Pte Patrick O’Grady; 5057 Pte Timothy Leyden; 5116 Pte Edward Thomlinson; 5014 Pte Herbert Davidson; 6827 Pte Horace John Towers; 4349 L Cpl Thomas John Barrett Pope; 2568 Pte John Leslie Gordon Arlow; 3207 L Cpl John Bird; 560 Pte Frederick George Hall (front of line); Lieutenant R. F. A. Downes MC (right). Note: Sgt O’Brien, of Gordon, Vic, a schoolteacher in civilian life, was killed in action on 9 August 1918; Pte Cryer was born at Bury, Lancashire, a farmer when he enlisted at Armidale, NSW, later transferring to the 32nd Battalion; Pte Olive of Lara, Vic, initially rejected before enlisting in September 1916, was killed in action near Bellicourt on 30 September 1918; L Cpl Price MM of Maryborough, Vic, an original member of B company, was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in Belgium in 1917, and later transferred to the 32nd Battalion; Pte Phillips, a packer in civilian life, the youngest in the platoon at nineteen years of age, was wounded on 29 August 1918, returning to Australia in December 1918; Pte Buckley, a clerk of Kyneton, Vic, was wounded in action on 9 August 1918, later transferring to the 32nd Battalion where his frequent periods of absenteeism continued; L Cpl Craven, a labourer of Ballarat, Vic, served three years with the battalion before transferring to the 32nd Battalion; Pte O’Grady of Galway, Ireland was employed as a miller in Melbourne, Vic, before enlistment and he also transferred to the 32nd Battalion; Pte Leyden of Trentham, Vic, a railway employee in civilian life, was gassed on 27 August 1918, transferring to the 5th Battalion on 22 November 1918; Pte Thomlinson a driver of Stawell, Vic, the oldest member of the platoon at forty four years of age, was taken on strength with the battalion on 6 June 1918, later transferring to the 32nd Battalion, as did Pte Davidson, a leather worker of Brunswick, Vic; Pte Towers a farm labourer of Cootamundra, NSW, later transferred to the 32nd Battalion, and was admitted to the Abbeville Hospital on 9 November 1918 suffering broncho-pneumonia where he died on 11 November 1918; L Cpl Pope, born at Westbury-on-Tyne, Gloucestershire, a farmer of Sydney, NSW, was wounded in action on 30 September 1918; Pte Arlow of Warrnambool, Vic, a blacksmith in civilian life, was killed in action near Bellicourt on 30 September 1918; L Cpl Bird, a carpenter

of South Melbourne, Vic, later transferred to the 32nd Battalion; Pte Hall, an iron moulder of South Melbourne, Vic, an original member of B company, was wounded in action twice. Lieutenant Downes MC of Camden, NSW, was an orchardist prior to enlistment, sailed as a second lieutenant and was promoted to lieutenant in May 1917. He was awarded the Military Cross for “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty” at Morlancourt in July 1918 and like most of his men was transferred to the 32nd Battalion with the reorganisation of battalions which took place in 1918.

(This image Nº E02790 was supplied by Garth O’Connell from the Australian War Memorial and received with thanks)

(Colourised by Doug UK)


A soldier of the Royal Irish Rifles captured by the Germans during the Ludendorff Offensive (Operation Michael) of March/April 1918.
(© IWM Q 23839)

The attack, began after a five-hour 6,000-gun artillery bombardment as 65 divisions from the German 2nd, 17th and 18th Armies attacked the British 3rd and 5th Armies along a 60-mile front in the Somme on 21 March, it met with dazzling early successes – particularly to the west and south-west of St Quentin, where the German 18th Army made immense and unexpected progress against formations of the British Fifth Army. Slower progress was made in the centre and in the north where obstinate British resistance threw the main offensive off-course. Pragmatic and opportunistic readjustments to original objectives and the major rebuff dealt the Germans at Arras on 28 March reduced and redirected the offensive towards the secondary goal of Amiens – with a view to splitting of the British and French armies. But crucial allied defensive actions around Villers-Bretonneux denied the Germans even of this prize and the ‘Great Battle in France’ was called off in favour of new attempts at decisive breakthrough in Flanders.

(Colourised by Doug UK)


A Canadian soldier wounded in his shoulder and leg, drinking hot coffee at a soup kitchen 100 yards from the German lines at Hill 70.
The Battle of Hill 70 was a localized battle of World War I between the Canadian Corps and five divisions of the German Sixth Army. The battle took place along the Western Front on the outskirts of Lens in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France between 15 August 1917 and 25 August 1917.
(Reference Code: C 224-0-0-10-10
Archives of Ontario, I0004820)

(Colourised by Doug UK)


Men of the Border Regiment resting in ‘funk holes’ (scraped out dugouts) near Thiepval Wood during the Battle of the Somme, July/August 1916.
(© IWM Q 872)

The Colour Sergeant (on the left) wears the padded cap, the man lying on the top is using a groundsheet as bedding and has laid out his 1908 pattern webbing with small pack, entrenching tool and water bottle by his feet.


d by Tom Thou

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‘A Helping Hand’ – Casualties and Prisoners of War on the Western Front
Canadian soldiers and German POWs at the Battle of Hill 70, north of Lens in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France between 15 August 1917 and 25 August 1917.
(Colourised by Doug Banks from the UK)10391398_463965233747334_5577821258108214135_n

As Britain and France waged war against Germany in Europe and in Africa, Britain called upon help from her Imperial troops. Indian soldiers in the Indian Army arrived in Europe from September 1914. The first of these Indian troops arrived in Marseilles on 26 September 1914. They came from the Lahore and Meerut Divisions and the Secunderbad Cavalry. In October, Indians were fed into some of the fiercest fighting at Ypres. In March 1915, Indian troops provided half the attacking force at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, which was the costliest in terms of lives.

Wounded Indians who had fought in France were sent to Britain to recover. In Brighton, the Royal Pavilion was transformed into a military hospital for Indian soldiers. During their time spent recuperating, Indians were visited by the King and the Royal Family. Tours were also organized for them to visit London and see the sights. The religious needs of the soldiers was taken into account, with nine kitchens erected to cater for the various dietary regulations of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims and areas were cordoned off for worship. Various other buildings were also converted into nursing homes for these soldiers. Two memorials exist in Brighton to commemorate the Indian soldiers who came through during the War – the Chattri on the South Downs and the Pavilion Gateway (unveiled by Bhupinder Singh in 1921).

(Colourised by Royston Leonard from the UK)

The Battle of Thiepval.
An exhausted British soldier asleep in a front line trench at Thiepval, Somme. September 1916.
© IWM (Q 1071)
(Colorised by Alain D’amato from France)


An armourer loading grenades and signal flares onto a Halberstadt CL.II “Brünhilde” of Schlasta 27b at Boucheneuil airfield Belgium. April 1918
(Colourised by Doug UK)10455005_469928946484296_4087960959320751442_o

A smiling artilleryman with the post for his battery, near Aveluy on the Somme, September 1916.

(Photograph by Lt. Ernest Brooks)
(© IWM Q 1152)

(Colourised by Doug UK)


British Mk IV (Female) tank, ‘Escapade’ (Nº2815) , broken down and captured by the Germans near Cambrai, France.
Commanded by 2nd Lieut. Black of 1 Section, ‘E’ Battalion, 13 Company, tasked as a wire crusher.
Flesquières, 20th November 1917.
Possibly belonging to 152 Brigade, 51st Highland Division.

(Colourised by Royston Leonard from the UK)
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Colourized-pictures-of-the-world-wars-and-other-periods-in-time/18215858197701210553521_484961201647737_5399038729132089086_nThe Battle of Pilckem Ridge: Crossing the Yser Canal at Boesinghe, 31st July 1917.

The offensive began on 31 July 1917, but made disappointingly small gains. The British artillery bombardment, which was needed to shatter the enemy’s defensive trench system, also wrecked the low-lying region’s drainage system, and unusually heavy rainy weather turned the ground into a wasteland of mud and water-filled craters. For three months, British troops suffered heavy casualties for limited gains.

(© IWM Q 2635)

(Colourised by Doug)


Personnel of the 16th Canadian Machine Gun Company holding the line in shell holes during the Second Battle of Passchendaele, November 1917.
(Library and Archives Canada NºO.2246)

The 16th C.M.G. Coy. was the Divisional Reserve MG Company, 4th Canadian Infantry Division.

The machine-gunner closest to the camera, on the left, is Private Reginald Le Brun (790913), he was the only survivor from this photograph.

‘Being Alone’ by Reginald Le Brun:
“They pushed the machine guns right out in front. There was nothing between us and the Germans across the swamp. Three times during the night they shelled us heavily…..by
morning, of our team of six, only my buddy Private Tombes and I were left. Then came the burst that got Tombes…..it was a terrible feeling to be the only one left.”

(Colourised by Doug UK )

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