Remembering WWI, one photo at a time

Remembering WWI, one photo at a time

Posted on November 11 by The Vimy Foundation in News, Non-fiction
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We no longer have any veterans of the First World War still with us, and so we have lost that direct connection with their stories – of the tragedy of war; of the reasons why they enlisted to fight; of the impact of the war on them, their families, and their country. And so it is up to us, a century later, to remember and to learn their stories.

Our world nowadays is very connected through imagery – the amazing cameras on our smartphones, the photos we share through social networks like Instagram and Snapchat. The Vimy Foundation is always looking for interesting ways to help people connect more strongly with Canada’s First World War history. Black and white photos tend to feel like the ancient past – 100 years might as well be 1000 years.

But seeing the same photos in colour helps us to see the war as it was experienced by those living it and it helps us connect more strongly to the people in those photos. Colour makes the images – and the people in them – feel familiar. The people in these colourized photos don’t seem like an ancient generation, but rather as the young people that they were, thrust into a foreign experience.

They Fought in Colour started off one photo at a time, with some of the most iconic photos from the First World War: the soldiers celebrating in the trucks after the victory at Vimy, walking through the mud of Passchendaele. We were incredibly fortunate to work with the talented digital colourist Mark Truelove of Canadian Colour. His dedication to ensuring historical accuracy in the colours and his commitment to this project have made They Fought in Colour possible. Each time a new completed photo arrived from him in our inbox, we crowded around a computer screen, eager to see his next masterpiece.

We wanted to tell more of the story beyond the battle scenes, so it was important to include photos from all points of the war, a cross-section of what those four-plus years were like: some of the sporting events taking place behind the front lines, women working in factories in Canada, fundraising drives across the country, the work of nurses and doctors, training exercises, and the soldiers coming home.  We have heard from many people that with these images in colour, the small details in the photos jump out.

Over 600,000 Canadians enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War – over 60,000 were killed. We also remember all those who served with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. To honour their sacrifice, and to keep their stories alive for future generations, the Vimy Foundation works to ensure that Canadians take up the torch of remembrance.

As we commemorate the centennial anniversary of the Armistice (the end of the First World War) this November, we hope all Canadians will be inspired by They Fought in Colour to learn more about some of the lesser-known stories of the First World War, and to share these stories with new generations.

By Jeremy Diamond – executive director, Vimy Foundation