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Image: courtesy of worldwaronecolourphotos.com

Two soldiers stand looking at the body of a fallen comrade

On this day, ninety-one years ago, the guns that raged over the battlefields of Europe for more than four years fell silent. Never before had slaughter on such an industrial scale been conceived of, and never again would the lives of those who survived, or the collective consciousness of the nations who suffered, be the same again. Environmental Graffiti has compiled a collection of rare colour photographs, illuminating in grim detail the horrors of a war that set a precedent for bloody conflict in the twentieth century.


Image: courtesy of worldwaronecolourphotos.com

French gunners try to shoot down an aeroplane

Only a handful of genuine colour images of the First World War exist, and today they often appear alongside monochrome photographs that have been retrospectively retouched in colour (such as the photos of British troops in this article). They offer a gripping insight into the shattered landscape through which our ancestors walked, from the mud and blood of Passchendaele to the backstreet-grief of mourning mothers all over France and the world.

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Image: courtesy of worldwaronecolourphotos.com

Damage by artillery

The majority of these images are held by Gallica, the digital wing of the Bibliothèque National de France. Although the provenance of the photos is uncertain, it is thought they may be autochromes taken by the French photographer, Jean-Baptiste Tournassoud – a noted friend of early filmmakers, the Lumière brothers, who in 1903 patented the first colour photography process.

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