hi vimy colourized war

In an effort to convey the horror and humanity of the First World War to a younger generation, the Vimy Foundation undertook a project to colourize hundreds of photographs of Canadian soldiers. (Library and Archives Canada)

In an effort to convey the horror and humanity of the First World War to a younger generation, the Vimy Foundation undertook a project to colourize hundreds of photographs from the 1914-1918 conflict.

"We wanted to develop a different way of looking at the First World War," said Jeremy Diamond, executive director of the Vimy Foundation, a charity that aims to promote and preserve Canada's First World War legacy.

"Colourizing these images put a real face on war and makes these events feel more recent."


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The Vimy Foundation worked with a professional colourist who researched everything from the precise hue of the uniforms to the weather conditions on the day each photo was shot. 

The images are part of the exhibition Great War in Colour, which is on display at the Fort York Visitors Centre in Toronto and will move to other Canadian cities in 2017 and 2018. A commemorative book will be published next fall.

Here's a small sampling of the photos in the collection.

In this photo, Canadian machine gunners dig themselves in at Vimy Ridge. Crews like this worked in threes: one to fire the gun, one to reload the ammunition belts and one to change the water tank and bring up supplies.

Three soldiers sit in a captured German dugout during the Canadian advance east of the French city of Arras. Unlike the U.S. Army, the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) wasn't segregated. But the decision to engage soldiers from visible minorities, especially African-Canadians and First Nations, was left to the discretion of individual officers.

Canadian soldiers read the Canadian Daily Record in trenches near Lens, France, in February 1918. The Daily Record was the official army newspaper, and for most soldiers, it was their only source of news. The paper ran updates on life in Canada as well as sanitized accounts of events in the war.

A Canadian soldier writes a letter home from the front line in May 1917. Letter writing was key to sustaining a soldier's morale, as it was often the only means of communication with family back home for the duration of the war. The Canadian and British armies committed large resources to ensuring there was a functioning postal service throughout the conflict.

A group of Nova Scotians returns to camp after a game of baseball in February 1918. The army viewed organized sports as important for the physical fitness of soldiers — not to mention essential for morale.

A scene from the assembly department at the British Munitions Supply Co. in Verdun, Que. Women made up a large portion of the wartime workforce, particularly in newly built munitions factories.

Prisoners of war at Castle Mountain internment camp in Alberta. The largest such camp in the Rocky Mountains, this facility mostly held people from the Austro-Hungarian empire, including parts of modern-day Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Wounded Canadian soldiers sit against a wall with pro-conscription graffiti. Conscription was a huge issue facing Canada in the final two years of the war. The graffiti pictured here was meant to shame those who did not volunteer for the war effort.

The 13th Battalion, Royal Highlanders of Canada depart from Germany in January 1919. Canadian troops served briefly in Germany — though the country was never formally invaded, parts of the industrial areas on the French border were taken under Allied control.

First World War veterans learn handicrafts as part of the Department of Soldiers' civil re-establishment program. Disabled veterans were taught skills to help them re-adapt to civilian life and make them capable of earning a living after their service ended.