Scene in Paris, France, at end of WW1. Royston Leonard / mediadrumimages.com

By Mark McConville

 

THE HEROES of World War One have been brought into the twenty-first century thanks to a series of stunning colourised images to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the war.

Officers showing a map to their men, the Somme, France, during World War I. This photograph appears to have been posed. Two officers are sitting down in the ruins of a burnt building. They are ostensibly pointing out the map to a group of soldiers gathered around them. In fact, the soldiers are paying no attention to the map and one is grinning at the camera.
Royston Leonard / mediadrumimages.com

 

Striking pictures show men hauling a howitzer out of the mud at Beaucourt sur Ancre, four British soldiers using a fallen tree-trunk as a temporary bridge over the River Ancre and six soldiers looking out of a dugout on the Western Front.

Soldiers crossing the River Ancre, France, during World War I. This photograph depicts four British soldiers using a fallen tree-trunk as a temporary bridge over the River Ancre. They do not appear to be in a danger area as only one man is wearing a steel helmet. The landscape is bleak, full of war-blasted trees.
Royston Leonard / mediadrumimages.com

 

Other vivid colour photographs show soldiers digging a trench viewed between strands of barbed wire, officers showing a map to their men at the Somme in France and infantry waiting in a trench for their turn to advance.

Wounded man on a stretcher, near Arras, France, during World War I. Two soldiers carrying a wounded companion on a stretcher. They are trying to manoeuvre the stretcher out of the main trench into a deeper trench at right angles to it. The pain of the wounded man is apparent in the tension and angles of the way he is lying.
Royston Leonard / mediadrumimages.com

 

The original black and white photos were expertly colourised by electrician Royston Leonard (56) from Cardiff, Wales.

Snow in the reserve trenches, Western Front, during World War I. The sheer misery of the trenches in the winter is well illustrated by this photograph of troops walking along a reserve trench. The men, huddled into their greatcoats, are black against the snow around the trench.
Royston Leonard / mediadrumimages.com

 

“Adding colour brings to life the horror of war of the trenches not just another old black and white photo from long ago,” he said.

Infantry waiting in a trench for their turn to advance, while others to the right are already advancing. There is a tank in the background in front of the infantry, so the image must have been taken after 15 September 1916, the first time that tanks were used in battle. It probably dates to after the Cambrai offensive of 1917, when they were used with greater success.
Royston Leonard / mediadrumimages.com

 

“I want to show life in the trenches in the First World War and that any one of them could be the unknown soldier.

Men hauling a howitzer out of the mud, Western Front – Beaucourt sur Ancre.
Royston Leonard / mediadrumimages.com

 

“As I colourised each picture I hoped that they all came home. It was 100 years ago but it could happen again if we forget the lessons.

Soldier cleaning a rifle, Western Front. A soldier sitting cleaning the mud off his rifle with a cloth. There is a tin in front of him which may have contained grease for oiling the gun. His growth of beard suggests he may have been continuously in the trenches for several days. Soldiers were expected to be cleanshaven, although moustaches were allowed. This soldier is wearing a motley of clothing to keep warm. The cuff of a jumper can be seen under his jacket. He is also wearing one of the goatskin waistcoats issued in 1915, which were described as warm but very smelly! [Original reads: ‘Before shaving Tommy cleans his rifle after coming out of the trenches.’]
Royston Leonard / mediadrumimages.com

“The pictures show us of a lost generation to the world. My favourite picture is the one showing four soldiers walking across a river on a downed tree as this shows a picture of peace in a time of war, if even for a short time.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Royston Leonard / mediadrumimages.com

 

“We must never forget and teach all our children so that it never happens again. The pictures are not nice but then nor is sending loved ones to war.”

Construction work at Menin, Belgium, during World War I. In the distance the stripped landscape is visible. A large crater dominates the front of the photograph, filled with wet, churned mud. Teams of men work in a line in the centre carrying supplies with which to lay new road.
Royston Leonard / mediadrumimages.com

 

World War One was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as the “war to end all wars”, it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history.

Ministry Of Information First World War Official Collection, The King’s Liverpool Regiment moving along a communication trench leading to the front line; near Blairville Wood, 16th April 1916. (55th Division).
Royston Leonard / mediadrumimages.com

 

An estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilians died as a direct result of the war, while it is also considered a contributory factor in a number of genocides and the 1918 influenza epidemic, which caused between 50 and 100 million deaths worldwide.

11th November 1920: King George V placing a wreath on the coffin of the Unknown Warrior, at the Cenotaph, on Armistice Day.
Royston Leonard / mediadrumimages.com

 

The British grave of The Unknown Warrior (often known as ‘The Tomb of The Unknown Warrior’) holds an unidentified British soldier killed on a European battlefield during the First World War.

The Cenotaph, Whitehall, Armistice Day 1920, Unveiling of the permanent Cenotaph at Whitehall, by His Majesty King George V, 11 November 1920.
Royston Leonard / mediadrumimages.com

 

He was buried in Westminster Abbey, London on 11 November 1920, simultaneously with a similar interment of a French unknown soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in France, making both graves the first to honour the unknown dead of the First World War. It is the first example of a tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Unknown Warrior, Westminster Abbey, 1920.
Royston Leonard / mediadrumimages.com

 

 

LEAVE A REPLY