‘Mad’ Jack Churchill leading a training exercise, longsword in hand, in Inveraray, c. 1941. Lieutenant-Colonel John Churchill was widely known for fighting against the Germans armed with a longbow, bagpipes, and a Scottish broadsword. He holds the unbeaten record in modern warfare of killing an officer with an arrow. Joel Bellviure / mediadrumworld.com

By Mark McConville

A SERIES of bizarre images from both world wars have been brought into the twenty-first century after being expertly colourised.

The strange pictures show Wojtek the Bear who was enlisted as a private in the Polish Army during World War Two, Finnish soldiers using slingshots to lob grenades at Soviet attackers and a soldier in ‘zebra’ black and white camouflage that was to conceal him while climbing trees.

Other amusing shots show a British soldier from World War One shaking hands with another dressed in a full suit of medieval armour, a US soldier wearing a Brewster Body Shield which was the first American body armour to be developed in WWI and an American soldier aiming a Colt atop an elephant.

Comparision between a British WWI veteran soldier armed with a rifle with a soldier in a full suit of medieval armour with an axe, October 1917. During the beginning of the 20th century, plate armour saw a revival due to the introduction of shrapnel in modern warfare. Joel Bellviure / mediadrumworld.com

 

The black and white photographs were painstakingly colourised by Joel Bellviure (17) who lives between Palma in Mallorca and Barcelona, Spain.

“Usually, I colourise pictures which might have an impact on the observer,” he said.

“A colourised WWI war casualty can raise awareness that, although being 100 years old, the essence of war will never evolve, that death doesn’t need to be romanticised because of being on black and white.

Soldier in ‘razzle dazzle’ or ‘zebra’ black and white camouflaged uniform to conceal him while climbing trees. He stands in front of a house camouflaged to represent a fence and trees. Co. F, 24th Engineers, American University, D. C. November 14, 1917. Razzle dazzle was tested and actually worked on ships. Joel Bellviure / mediadrumworld.com

 

“I also like to bring back colour to pictures we might now call ‘weird’, ‘strange’, or even ‘funny’. We must understand the people who took these photos didn’t see these pictures as something extremely particular, but as something that fit on their times and colourising gives them a little bit of that sense they have now lost.

“My intention was, however, to find that little minority of photos that doesn’t transmit any universal values, that as ironical as it may sound, don’t express humanity at its best or at its worst, but that express humanity as it is.

“The essence of an average Human has never been the conquest of a strange land, or the signature of a great treaty.

American corporal aims a Colt M1895 installed on an elephant in a purely propagandistic picture, 1914. Although this picture is staged, elephants have been used for military purposes for centuries. Joel Bellviure / mediadrumworld.com

 

“Maybe little details which may provoke a little laugh, maybe a soldier joking with his comrades before coming back to the battlefield – these are the true signs of human nature.”

Joel recalled his first attempts at colourising pictures weren’t great and he had to work at it to improve.

He also explained what he loves about adding colour to old black and white photos and the message he hopes his images have.

Royal Flying Corps pilot cadet practicing deflection shooting from a moving platform installed on rails and launched at high speed, probably Egypt or Palestine, during World War One. Due to taking lessons on a real plane was expensive and implied a risk, exercises like this were daily routine for the Royal Flying Corps. Joel Bellviure / mediadrumworld.com

 

“I love almost everything: being able to take a look to every detail, making friends across every ocean, discovering historical happenings, and of course all the amazing things that have happened to me thanks to this job,” he said.

“Now, life is not a bed of roses, and colourising also has its disadvantages. Learning how to colourise and achieving a good result uses to take months, and sometimes you have the feeling you are losing your time.

“With the ‘weird’ series the message is clear: times change, and with times, people do. Being able to bring colour to pictures that lost their meaning a long time ago is the proof, because although in colour, something we are more familiar with, when we take them to our world, these pictures still look even stranger that they used to do.

“And who knows? Have you ever asked yourself what our grandchildren will think when we show them what we call ‘memes’?”

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