The Great War in colour: Incredible photographs of World War I

At first glance these photos from the First World War appear to have had digitally colourised, but in fact these rare images were taken using some of the world's first colour cameras.

The stunning pictures show French soldiers reading newspapers, pausing for lunch in ruined towns and cities and clearing the rubble after devastating German artillery raids.

Some of the weapons and machinery of the war can also be seen in extraordinary detail, including a British Sopwith fighter plane and 75mm guns used by French artillery. 

The world's first colour photograph was taken in 1861, but the use of colour film did not become widespread until well after the end of the First World War.  

The pictures also reveal the human side of the war, as one soldier is shaved by a barber in a French military encampment and another picture shows a girl playing with her doll in the ruins of Reims.  

A little girl plays with her doll next to two guns and a knapsack, in the city of Reims in northern France in 1917. Between April and May of this year, British and French troops fought the Battle of the Hills to the east of the city, between Prunay and Aubérive, in an attempt to break through German lines on the Aisne front and push the Germans back across modern-day Belgium toward their own borders. Though the attack achieved several important goals, it was ultimately unsuccessful

A little girl plays with her doll next to two guns and a knapsack, in the city of Reims in northern France in 1917. Between April and May of this year, British and French troops fought the Battle of the Hills to the east of the city, between Prunay and Aubérive, in an attempt to break through German lines on the Aisne front and push the Germans back across modern-day Belgium toward their own borders. Though the attack achieved several important goals, it was ultimately unsuccessful

French Captain Robert de Beauchamp stands alongside his British Sopwith fighter in September 1916, after returning from a bombing raid on Essen in Germany. The picture was taken shortly before his death at Verdun. According to Le Souvenir Français, an organisation which remembers France's war dead, Beauchamp 'was the first to organize and execute long-range bombing, showing, in the accomplishment of these missions, an energy, a tenacity and a daring that was unparalleled'

French Captain Robert de Beauchamp stands alongside his British Sopwith fighter in September 1916, after returning from a bombing raid on Essen in Germany. The picture was taken shortly before his death at Verdun. According to Le Souvenir Français, an organisation which remembers France's war dead, Beauchamp 'was the first to organize and execute long-range bombing, showing, in the accomplishment of these missions, an energy, a tenacity and a daring that was unparalleled'

French soldiers buying and reading newspapers at a kiosk in Rexpoede, in the far north of France, in September 1917. The town is just 20 miles from Ypres, in Belgium, where the Battle of Passchendaele was being fought at this time. The battle was one of the bloodiest of the entire war, but is perhaps more infamous for the mud. The worst rains to hit the Flanders region for 30 years turned parts of the battlefield into a quagmire so deep that men and horses drowned in it

French soldiers buying and reading newspapers at a kiosk in Rexpoede, in the far north of France, in September 1917. The town is just 20 miles from Ypres, in Belgium, where the Battle of Passchendaele was being fought at this time. The battle was one of the bloodiest of the entire war, but is perhaps more infamous for the mud. The worst rains to hit the Flanders region for 30 years turned parts of the battlefield into a quagmire so deep that men and horses drowned in it

A French soldier has his lunch in front of a damaged library, sitting by a lamp-post after parking his bicycle in Reims, France in April 1917. German troops capture Reims early on in the conflict and while they were pushed back out of the city, they formed a trench network on the surrounding high ground allowing them to periodically shell the buildings. In total, around 60 per cent of Reims was destroyed during the war

A French soldier has his lunch in front of a damaged library, sitting by a lamp-post after parking his bicycle in Reims, France in April 1917. German troops capture Reims early on in the conflict and while they were pushed back out of the city, they formed a trench network on the surrounding high ground allowing them to periodically shell the buildings. In total, around 60 per cent of Reims was destroyed during the war

The French line at Het Sas, north of Ypres in Belgium, devastated by artillery fire with soldiers standing in front of shelters, September 10, 1917. This image was taken a month after the Battle of Passchendaele began, while the Allies and Germans were still locked in a bloody stalemate. Fifteen days after this picture was taken, however, the fighting began to swing in the Allies' favour with British victory at the Battle of Menin Road Ridge

The French line at Het Sas, north of Ypres in Belgium, devastated by artillery fire with soldiers standing in front of shelters, September 10, 1917. This image was taken a month after the Battle of Passchendaele began, while the Allies and Germans were still locked in a bloody stalemate. Fifteen days after this picture was taken, however, the fighting began to swing in the Allies' favour with British victory at the Battle of Menin Road Ridge

French soldiers clearing the rubble in the ruins of Reims, in 1917. Reims was bombarded continually by the Germans during the war, leaving city heavily damaged, but perhaps the most infamous attack occurred in 1914. On that occasion a German shell hit the city's cathedral, setting it on fire and destroying statues and stained glass windows. The incident was often used in French propaganda to depict the Germans as barbaric

French soldiers clearing the rubble in the ruins of Reims, in 1917. Reims was bombarded continually by the Germans during the war, leaving city heavily damaged, but perhaps the most infamous attack occurred in 1914. On that occasion a German shell hit the city's cathedral, setting it on fire and destroying statues and stained glass windows. The incident was often used in French propaganda to depict the Germans as barbaric

The towers of the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Reims can be seen through the damaged windows of another building, in 1917. The Germans had pledged not to shell Reims after retreating from the city in the early months of the war, but that pact lasted just a week. Over the course of the next four years, the cathedral alone was hit more than 300 times, leaving it little more than a battered shell by the end

The towers of the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Reims can be seen through the damaged windows of another building, in 1917. The Germans had pledged not to shell Reims after retreating from the city in the early months of the war, but that pact lasted just a week. Over the course of the next four years, the cathedral alone was hit more than 300 times, leaving it little more than a battered shell by the end

George 'Pop' Redding, an Australian soldier from the 8th Light Horse Regiment, picks flowers during the war in Palestine. 'Pop' enlisted in the Australian army in 1915 giving his age as 44 to the recruiting sergeant, when in fact he was 57. At the time this picture was taken he was 61, making him one of the oldest men in the First Australian Imperial Force

George 'Pop' Redding, an Australian soldier from the 8th Light Horse Regiment, picks flowers during the war in Palestine. 'Pop' enlisted in the Australian army in 1915 giving his age as 44 to the recruiting sergeant, when in fact he was 57. At the time this picture was taken he was 61, making him one of the oldest men in the First Australian Imperial Force

A French section of machine gunners takes position during the Second Battle of the Aisne on the Western Front in 1917. The battle was part of the Nivelle Offensive, devised by French general Robert Nivelle, and the Aisne offensive formed the main thrust of the attack. The battle was supposed to last 48 hours with casualties of 10,000 men, but dragged on for three weeks with nearly 30,000 dead. Despite achieving several key objectives, it led to mutinies among the men and ended in failure

A French section of machine gunners takes position during the Second Battle of the Aisne on the Western Front in 1917. The battle was part of the Nivelle Offensive, devised by French general Robert Nivelle, and the Aisne offensive formed the main thrust of the attack. The battle was supposed to last 48 hours with casualties of 10,000 men, but dragged on for three weeks with nearly 30,000 dead. Despite achieving several key objectives, it led to mutinies among the men and ended in failure

A soldier is shaved by a barber in a French military encampment in Soissons, while two soldiers wait under a tent, in 1917. A year after this picture was taken a major battle was fought here between the French and Germans, with the British and Americans supporting the French. In total 95,000 French and 12,000 Americans were killed, alongside 168,000 Germans. It was for his actions during this battle that Adolf Hitler was awarded the Iron Cross First Class

A soldier is shaved by a barber in a French military encampment in Soissons, while two soldiers wait under a tent, in 1917. A year after this picture was taken a major battle was fought here between the French and Germans, with the British and Americans supporting the French. In total 95,000 French and 12,000 Americans were killed, alongside 168,000 Germans. It was for his actions during this battle that Adolf Hitler was awarded the Iron Cross First Class

Doctors, nurses and medical personnel in front of field hospital number 55, in Bourbourg in northern France. The hospital was known as 'the camp in the oatfield' because of its location, having been moved there from Dunkirk after the German army started shelling the region. It existed for just five months in summer 1915 before being relocated to the dune near Calais

Doctors, nurses and medical personnel in front of field hospital number 55, in Bourbourg in northern France. The hospital was known as 'the camp in the oatfield' because of its location, having been moved there from Dunkirk after the German army started shelling the region. It existed for just five months in summer 1915 before being relocated to the dune near Calais

A group of French soldiers rest on the grass as they eat their lunch in Aisne, on the Western Front in France, in 1917. While the men in this picture appear relaxed and happy, this was the site of mutinies by several French divisions in May following the failure of the Second Battle of Aisne. The failure also led to the dismissal of General Robert Nivelle

A group of French soldiers rest on the grass as they eat their lunch in Aisne, on the Western Front in France, in 1917. While the men in this picture appear relaxed and happy, this was the site of mutinies by several French divisions in May following the failure of the Second Battle of Aisne. The failure also led to the dismissal of General Robert Nivelle

Two French soldiers and a young boy look through the window of a shop selling alcohol in Reims, France, in 1917. While these scenes appear peaceful, in fact the German front line was located less than 10 miles away to the north, with the Kaiser's forces regularly shelling the city. The Germans actually occupied Reims in the first few months of the war, though were quickly pushed back and would never retake it

Two French soldiers and a young boy look through the window of a shop selling alcohol in

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