One of several recently released photographs from the Third Battle of Ypres (or Passchendaele) in 1917 : Hell on Earth: The never before seen colour photographs of the bloody battle of Passchendaele (Victoria Moore, The Daily Mail, July 12). (h/t Mark Thoma)
Moore's story doesn't provide much information on the source of the pictures, or the circumstances of their publication. They appear to come from a book that may be the source: Passchendaele 1917: The Story Of The Fallen, by Frank Bostyn and Jan Van Der Fraeden is published by Pen & Sword at £25. To order a copy for £22.50 (p& p free), call 0870 161 0870.
James Reeve writes (see comments):
Sorry, but those photos are fakes - cut/paste and hand-tinted. The one of the German gunners is a composite of 2 well-known pics. A method of making coloured photos was used in WW1. It was called Autochrome, but was used by the French and in the Middle East by 2 Australians.
Mr. Reeve has also provided a link to one of the photos used to create the composite: Veteran Returns to Flanders & "Colour Photos":
In retrospect, there are a number of things that should have caused me to be more careful with this photo: (a) the arrangement of the elements in the photo is just too well composed to have been taken by someone, in no man's land, wearing a gas mask, and under fire. The shell burst in the background is just too perfectly placed. Not impossible maybe, but unlikely. (b) The machine gunners should be up to their waists, or above, in muddy water but don't look disturbed by that at all. (c) They don't look like they have much ammunition. Or any supporting infrastructure or company of any kind. It's unclear why they aren't in any sort of prepared defensive position, although there might be a reason for this. (d) It was associated with other photos of Allied soldiers who were not immediately under fire. The very different subject matter should have raised questions about why all these photos were recently discovered together.
I appreciate Mr. Reeve's comment, and I apologize for posting this, and not being more skeptical.
This is a powerful photo and I'll look forward to learning more about it from the book. It raises some questions. It looks like an action shot. What possessed the photographer to rise up two or three feet above ground to take the picture? Where did he get the presence of mind - under fire - to compose the photo as well as he did? Especially if he was wearing his gas mask?
Text in red was added on July 29, after receiving the comment from James Reeve.