I have been colourising photos for a few years now and have gradually built my hobby into a home grown business PhotograFix. Last year I colourised a series of photos to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, and this year I’ve chosen to mark the centenary of Passchendaele which began on 31st July 1917.
The battle took place on the Western Front, from July until November 2017 for control of the ridges south and east of the Belgian city of Ypres in West Flanders.
Officially known as the Third Battle of Ypres, Passchendaele became infamous not only for the scale of casualties, but also for the mud. Shelling between the two sides had destroyed the drainage systems that were keeping the reclaimed marshland dry, meaning that men and horses drowned in some of the worst conditions of the war.
The British lost an estimated 275,000 casualties at Passchendaele to the German’s 220,000, making it one of the war’s most costly battles of attrition.
The more populous Allies could better afford the losses, especially with the recent entry of the United States on their side, but the battle had delivered a blow to the collective morale of the British Expeditionary Force. Passchendaele, often remembered as the low point of the British war effort, remains synonymous with the terrible and costly fighting on the Western Front.
I have chosen a handful of photos to illustrate the living and fighting conditions of British and Commonwealth troops, from Canada, Australia and New Zealand. I decided to colourise these images as a tribute to the men pictured, because I believe that colour adds another dimension to historic images, and helps modern eyes to connect with the subjects, more than with a black and white photo.
I have found that black and white images are too often sadly ignored, especially by younger generations, and by colourising the photos, I hope that more people will stop to learn more about the subjects and what the men went through 100 years ago.
The information accompanying the photos comes from the National Library of Scotland’s website and other online sources.
To see more of my colourised photos, please follow PhotograFix on Facebook and Twitter.
All colourised images © Tom Marshall (PhotograFix) 2017.
More info: Facebook
Royal Garrison Artillery gunners pushing a light railway truck filled with shells, behind Zillebeke, 1 October 1917
A British soldier talks to a local farm worker
A soldier of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry washing clothes in an Officer’s canvas bath, Ypres-Comines Canal, 1 October 1917
Men of the 6th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, resting beneath a tarpaulin, Ypres-Comines Canal, 1 October 1917
New Zealanders walking wounded at the Battle of Broodseinde ridge, the most successful Allied attack of Passchendaele. A YMCA NZ stall just behind the lines allowed the men to get something to drink
Men of the 8th Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry playing cards near Ypres, 1 October 1917
British officers in a German trench, Messines, Belgium, 1917. Three officers stand outside the mouth of the trench whilst one sits on top of it and one stands inside it. They all appear happy or relaxed, presumably as they have just captured a German trench and all the supplies in it
New Zealand soldiers in the Ypres Salient
Troops moving at Eventide. Men of a Yorkshire regiment on the march. This photo was taken by Ernest Brooks
Soldiers build a new dug-out as they advance
An 18 pounder gun being hauled through the mud at Broodseinde Ridge to a position further forward, in support of the advancing Australians, two days before the initial attack on Passchendaele Ridge, in the Ypres sector
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