Rarely seen photos record World War II in brilliant, immersive color

Stunning WWII photos
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Stunning WWII photos

December 1942

An Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) ‘spotter’ at a 3.7-inch anti-aircraft gun site.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums (TR 453))

May 1943

A crew from the 16th/5th Lancers, 6th Armoured Division, clean the gun barrel of their Crusader tank at El Aroussa in Tunisia.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums (TR 939))

August 1943

Nurses and convalescent aircrew at Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Hospital at Halton in Buckinghamshire.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums (TR 1169))

March 1944

Private Alfred Campin of the 6th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry during battle training in Britain.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums (TR 1596))

c. 1941

An Air Raid Precautions (ARP) warden inspects damaged buildings in Holborn, London.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums (TR 1928))

April 22, 1944

British paratroopers prepare for a practice jump from an RAF Dakota based at Down Ampney in Wiltshire.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums (TR 1662))

October 1944

Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery explains Allied strategy to King George VI in his command caravan in Holland.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums (TR 2393))

February 1944

General Dwight D. Eisenhower and his senior commanders at Supreme Allied Headquarters in London.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums (TR 1541))


Lieutenant Vernon R Richards of the 361st Fighter Group flies his P-51D Mustang, nicknamed ‘Tika IV’, during a bomber escort mission.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums (TR 6210))

September 1943

A 5.5-inch gun crew from 75th (Shropshire Yeomanry) Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery, in action in Italy.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums (TR 1402))

October 1944

British soldiers admire the Caryatids on the Acropolis while sightseeing in Athens.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums (TR 2516))

October 1944

British soldiers admire the Caryatids on the Acropolis while sightseeing in Athens.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums (TR 2516))

July 1944

The RAF’s top-scoring fighter pilot, Wing Commander James ‘Johnnie’ Johnson, with his Spitfire and pet Labrador ‘Sally’ in Normandy.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums (TR 2145))

September 1944

Dutch civilians dance in the streets after the liberation of Eindhoven by Allied forces.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums (TR 2369))

Though color photography was invented decades before World War II, it was still a rather niche process, more complicated and expensive than black-and-white photography.

The scarcity of color film was compounded by the hazards of shipping in wartime and the difficulties of reproduction and printing.

Nevertheless, thousands of color images were created during the global conflict. 3,000 of those were assembled by the British Ministry of Information and eventually ended up in the collections of the Imperial War Museums, which now hold over 11 million photos of conflict from the first World War to the present day.

A new book of never-before-published photos drawn from the IWM's archives, The Second World War in Colour, surveys myriad aspects of the war, from frontline combat among flamethrower tanks and paratroopers to factories and hospitals on the homefront — all in vividly immersive color.

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