Colourised War Planes – By Mark McConville


Striking pictures of the fighter planes and bombs used during World War Two have been given a new lease of life after being expertly colourised.

The vivid colour images show the damaged tail of a Boeing B-17F-5-BO after its left horizontal stabilizer was torn completely off and the aircraft was nearly cut in half by the collision, whilst one-armed Squadron Leader J A F MacLachlan can be seen standing beside his all-black Hawker Hurricane and a captured Nazi prototype plane.

Other stunning shots reveal a Douglas SBD “Dauntless” dive bomber balanced on its nose after crash landing on a carrier flight deck, also shown are some of the bombs used in the conflict including the Tall Boy – a 12,000-lb MC deep-penetration bomb.

The black and white photographs were painstakingly colourised by design engineer Paul Reynolds (48) from Birmingham, UK.

“I think colourising detailed photos really brings them to life,” he said.

“You notice detail that usually gets missed due to the monotone background. The content of the photo conveys its own message; however I am glad that by colourising these photos more people are aware of the happenings of WWI and WWII.

“I always get a positive reaction to all photos I post; people are amazed at what can be achieved with even the most damaged of photos. I love showing off my photos and it’s a real boost to get that positive reaction from people.”

Squadron Leader J A F MacLachlan, the one-armed Commanding Officer of No 1 Squadron RAF, standing beside his all-black Hawker Hurricane Mark IIC night fighter, ‘JX-Q’, at Tangmere, Sussex. Paul Reynolds /

The Tallboy was an earthquake bomb developed by the British aeronautical engineer Barnes Wallis and used by the RAF during the Second World War.

At 5 long tons, it could only be carried by the Avro Lancaster heavy bomber, proving to be effective against massive and hardened structures against which conventional bombing had been ineffective.


Meanwhile the Americans had their own uniquely nicknamed bomb – the Fat Man. It was the codename for the atomic bomb that was detonated over the Japanese city of Nagasaki by the United States on 9 August 1945.

Tall Boy bomb – A 12,000-lb MC deep-penetration bomb (Bomber Command executive codeword ‘Tallboy’) is hoisted from the bomb dump to its carrier. Paul Reynolds /

It was the second of the only two nuclear weapons ever used in warfare, the first being Little Boy, and its detonation marked the third-ever man-made nuclear explosion in history.

It was built by scientists and engineers at Los Alamos Laboratory using plutonium from the Hanford Site and dropped from the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Bockscar. For the Fat Man mission, Bockscar was piloted by Major Charles W. Sweeney.

Douglas SBD “Dauntless” dive bomber balanced on nose after crash landing on carrier flight deck, June 21, 1943. Paul Reynolds /

Paul explained how he added colour to the old photographs and the problems he ran into along the way.

“I use a digital pen and pad and basically layer on the colour as you would with a painting,” he said.

The pilot of a U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat escapes after a crash landing on the USS Lexington aircraft carrier, 1945. Paul Reynolds /

“I’ve painted from an early age so this transition to digital was quite easy for me. The only problems I come across are the condition of the photos especially private commissions, most are torn, folded, creased, water damaged, dust spots and discoloured which then has to be digitally repaired with a brush, this process usually takes longer than the paint, but the finished photo is 100% sharper and more pleasing on the eye.”

Lancaster in the sunset. Paul Reynolds /

Michael D. Carroll is a journalist and author with a particular interest in historical photography.

From his base in Birmingham, UK he directs bespoke press agency, and through his work at the agency, Michael came into contact with the thriving community of colourisors of historical images.

After placing several colourised history features into the national newspapers in the UK, he enlisted the support of this community to publish Retrographic, the first book to present a specially curated selection of iconic historical images in living colour.

Beaufighter over snow. Paul Reynolds /


With the support of ambassadors from the world’s first society for photographers, the Royal Photographic Society, UK, images and reviews on Retrographic have been featured in newspapers and online zines, including the Daily Mail, Telegraph, Times, Fstoppers, War History Online, and ePHOTOzine.

The book has recently been taken into the private collection of London’s prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum, in recognition of its contribution to the history of photography.

More information on Amazon.

Kugisho MXY7 Ohka Model 11 (“I-18”) “Baka” Imperial Japanese Navy Captured at Yontan airfield, Okinawa on April 1, 1945, the I-18 is now on display at The Air Museum Planes of Fame, Valle, Arizona, USA. Paul Reynolds /
B-29. Paul Reynolds /
Crash landing of F6F-3, Number 30 of Fighting Squadron Two (VF-2), USS Enterprise, into the carrier’s port side 20mm gun gallery, 10 November 1943. Lieutenant Walter L. Chewning, Jr., USNR, the Catapult Officer, is climbing up the plane’s side to assist the pilot from the burning aircraft. The pilot, Ensign Byron M. Johnson, escaped without significant injury. Enterprise was then en route to support the Gilberts Operation. Note the plane’s ruptured belly fuel tank. Paul Reynolds /
Personnel of No. 92 Squadron RAF push one of their Supermarine Spitfire Mark VIIIs from the mud on the waterlogged landing ground at Canne, Italy. Paul Reynolds /
B-29 bomb check prior to departure for Tokyo. 1945. Paul Reynolds /
Fat Man – It was the codename for the atomic bomb that was detonated over the Japanese city of Nagasaki by the United States on 9 August 1945. Paul Reynolds /
P51 planes. Paul Reynolds /