By Rebecca Drew
BREATH-TAKING images of the unknown British Tommies who fought against the Germans in the Battle of the Somme have been brought to life in striking colour on the 101st anniversary of the bloody conflict.
The incredible pictures taken during the five-month-long battle, show a group of British soldiers joyfully posing for the camera wearing red men’s caps from the French First Zouaves Regiment, four medics relaxing smoking pipes and a sergeant from the Durham Light Infantry standing with a French family and French navy man.
One spectacular shot shows men from the Royal Field Artillery enjoying a cigarette, whilst another depicts a Royal Engineers officer and signaller on horseback. In another image, British soldiers are accompanied by the French for a photo opportunity.
The images were taken by French couple Louis and Antoinette Thuilliers as mementos to send home before the soldiers went to fight and die in battle.
The images were lost in a farmhouse attic for decades before being rediscovered by Australian television network Channel Seven. The WW1 photographs were expertly colourised by French bank technician, Frédéric Duriez (51).
“All of these soldiers are traumatised and their looks express the terror and horror of war and fighting,” said Frédéric.
“I live near Vignacourt, about sixty-kilometres away and there is an English cemetery in my region so, I wanted to praise their courage and loyalty and I visited the farm and the village a short time ago.
“Colouring the uniform wasn’t easy, I had to find the exact hue and the insignia so I had to search the internet for the models that would correspond.”
The Battle of the Somme was the bloodiest battle of WW1 which lasted 141-days. The British and French joined forces to fight the Germans on a 15-mile-long front.
More than a million-people died and were injured on both sides.
The Battle started on the July 1, 1916 and lasted until November 19, 1916. The British managed to advance seven-miles but failed to break the German defence.
Frédéric has been practicing colourisation for two years.
“Once you colourise black and white images, the space of time between history and now becomes shorter,” he added.
“I look at the people’s faces, the landscapes and research the fashion and clothes from the period that I’m colourising.
“I speak to other colourists to discuss different techniques too.
“I get good reactions from people and I’m surprised by this. Many people tell me that they are impressed by the light that I use and they say that it highlights the characters.”