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Thursday 9 February 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Open University
# The Great War
These amazing colourised photographs bring World War I to life
The ‘war to end all wars’ up close.

ONE MONTH AFTER a Bosnian-Serb assassinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, on a street corner in Sarajevo, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, effectively beginning World War I.

Ferdinand’s murder sent the Great Powers into a war that would last five years and cost the lives of 10 million troops.

Thought of as the “war to end all wars”, World War I marked a number of firsts in military conflict, including the use of planes, tanks, and chemical weapons.

On June 28, 1919, the victorious Allied leaders signed the Treaty of Versailles, officially ending World War I and spurring German nationalism, which in turn gave Nazi leader Adolf Hitler a political platform.

Here’s a few colourised photographs published by The Open University showing life during World War I.

Trench warfare was one of the hallmarks of World War I.

trench-warfare-was-one-of-the-hallmarks-of-world-war-i Open University Open University

Soldiers could spend the majority of their deployments in the trenches. Here, a soldier receives a haircut from a barber on the Albanian front.

soldiers-could-spend-the-majority-of-their-deployments-in-the-trenches-here-a-soldier-receives-a-haircut-from-a-barber-on-the-albanian-front Open University Open University

Here, a German Field Artillery crew poses with its gun at the start of the war in 1914.

here-a-german-field-artillery-crew-poses-with-its-gun-at-the-start-of-the-war-in-1914 Open University Open University

Trenches provided no protection against the deployment of chemical weapons. Here, a Canadian soldier poses with his horse while wearing a gas mask at the Canadian Army Veterinary Corps Headquarters.

trenches-provided-no-protection-against-the-deployment-of-chemical-weapons-here-a-canadian-soldier-poses-with-his-horse-while-wearing-a-gas-mask-at-the-canadian-army-veterinary-corps-headquarters Open University Open University

Fearing a gas attack, Indian infantry soldiers don their masks while taking position in a trench.

4-indian-infantry-gas-masks-ww1-colour Open University Open University

Chemical weapons represented a fearsome technological advance on the battlefield. But carrier pigeons, carried by mobile pigeon lofts, were still used to transport messages back to headquarters from the front lines.

chemical-weapons-represented-a-fearsome-technological-advance-on-the-battlefield-but-carrier-pigeons-carried-by-mobile-pigeon-lofts-were-still-used-to-transport-messages-back-to-headquarters-from-the-front-lines Open University Open University

World War I was truly a global conflict. These soldiers were members of the 1st Australian Imperial Force, and are pictured here at a military base in their home country.

world-war-i-was-truly-a-global-conflict-these-soldiers-were-members-of-the-1st-australian-imperial-force-and-are-pictured-here-at-a-military-base-in-their-home-country Open University Open University

Soldiers from the Canadian infantry pose with their unit’s animal mascot. The pets were a common means of boosting morale in the midst of an unimaginably violent conflict.

soldiers-from-the-canadian-infantry-pose-with-their-units-animal-mascot-the-pets-were-a-common-means-of-boosting-morale-in-the-midst-of-an-unimaginably-violent-conflict Open University Open University

- Jeremy Bender and Amanda Macias

Now take a look at: 18 rare colour photographs of the Russian Empire from over 100 years ago >

Published with permission from
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