IWM Staff
Wednesday 10 January 2018

Colour film was a scarce commodity during the Second World War, making the reproduction of printed works both difficult and expensive. Between 1942 and 1945 some 3,000 colour photographs were taken by The Ministry of Information for official records, which subsequently became part of the IWM archives in 1949.

Here are 15 of the images that survived and reveal for the first time and in great detail the world as the people in them would have seen it.

United States Eighth Air Force in Britain

Lieutenant Vernon R Richards of the 361st Fighter Group fliying his P-51 Mustang (B7-R, serial number 44-13357) nicknamed "Tika IV".
© IWM (FRE 6210)

United States Eighth Air Force in Britain

Lieutenant Vernon R Richards of the 361st Fighter Group flying his P-51D Mustang nicknamed ‘Tika IV’, during a bomber escort mission in 1944.

Collection object: FRE 6210

Sew for victory

Women’s Auxiliary Air Force: WAAF personnel on an RAF glider station in Britain repair and pack coloured parachutes for use by airborne troops during the Normandy invasion.
© IWM (TR 1783)

Sew for victory

Members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) preparing parachutes for use by British airborne forces during the invasion of Europe, May 1944.

Collection object: TR 1783

Keep watching the skies

An ATS spotter with binoculars at the anti-aircraft command post. A 3.7 inch anti-aircraft gun can be seen in the background.
© IWM (TR 453)

Keep watching the skies

An Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) ‘spotter’ at a 3.7-inch anti-aircraft gun site, December 1942.

Collection object: TR 453

The British Army drive on Tunis

Sergeant Elms of 16/5 Lancers and his tank crew at El Aroussa
© IWM (TR 939)

The British Army drive on Tunis

A crew from the 16th/5th Lancers, 6th Armoured Division, clean the gun barrel of their Crusader tank at El Aroussa in Tunisia, May 1943.

Collection object: TR 939

Nurses and soldiers

Nursing: Two nurses with convalescent servicemen in the garden at Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Hospital at Halton, Buckinghamshire.
© IWM (TR 1169)

Nurses and soldiers

Nurses and convalescent aircrew at Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Hospital at Halton in Buckinghamshire, August 1943.

Collection object: TR 1169

Build for Britain

Avro Lancaster bombers nearing completion at the A V Roe & Co Ltd factory, Woodford, Cheshire.
© IWM (TR 1386)

Build for Britain

Lancaster Bombers nearing completion in Avro’s Assembly Plant at Woodford near Manchester, 1943.

Collection object: TR 1386

The British Army in Italy

British gunners of the Shropshire Yeomanry in action with a 5.5 inch Howitzer under camouflage netting.
© IWM (TR 1402)

The British Army in Italy

A 5.5-inch gun crew from 75th (Shropshire Yeomanry) Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery, in action in Italy, September 1943.

Collection object: TR 1402

Meeting of the Supreme Command

The Allied Commanders meeting for Operation Overlord
IWM TR1541

Meeting of the Supreme Command

General Dwight D Eisenhower and his senior commanders at Supreme Allied Headquarters in London, February 1944.

Collection object: TR 1541

Training day

Private A Campin with fixed bayonet, practises assault.
© IWM (TR 1596)

Training day

Private Alfred Campin of the 6th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry during training in Britain, March 1944.

Collection object: TR 1596

Glider-Borne Paratroopers exercise

British paratroopers sitting in the fuselage of an aircraft while awaiting their order to jump.
© IWM (TR 1662)

Glider-Borne Paratroopers exercise

British paratroopers prepare for a practice jump from an RAF Dakota based at Down Ampney in Wiltshire, 22 April 1944.

Collection object: TR 1662

The Home Front

A Civil Defence Warden inspects bomb damaged buildings in Holborn, London.
© IWM (TR 1928)

The Home Front

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

Collection object: TR 1928

A pilot's best friend

The RAF's top scoring fighter pilot flying in north west Europe, Wing Commander Johnny Johnson, seen with his pet Labrador dog 'Sally'.
© IWM (TR 2145)

A pilot's best friend

The RAF’s top-scoring fighter pilot, Wing Commander James ‘Johnnie’ Johnson, with his Spitfire and pet Labrador ‘Sally’ at Bazenville landing ground, Normandy, July 1944.

Collection object: TR 2145

The Liberation of Eindhoven

Dutch civilians dance in the streets after the liberation of Eindhoven by the US 101st Airborne Division, 18 September 1944.
© IWM (TR 2369)

The Liberation of Eindhoven

Dutch civilians dance in the streets after the liberation of Eindhoven by Allied forces, September 1944.

Collection object: TR 2369

A caravan fit for a King

King George VI listens as Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery outlines his future strategy at his mobile headquarters in Holland, 13 October 1944.
© IWM (TR 2393)

A caravan fit for a King

Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery explains Allied strategy to King George VI in his command caravan in Holland, October 1944.

Collection object: TR 2393

The British Army in Athens

Sergeant R Gregory and Driver A Hardman admire the Caryatids during a tour of the Acropolis in Athens.
© IWM (TR 2516)

The British Army in Athens

British soldiers admire the Caryatids on the Acropolis while sight-seeing in Athens, October 1944.

Collection object: TR 2516

 

You can see more original colour photographs from the IWM archives, many published for the first time in 70 years, in our new book The Second World War in Colour.