Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Royston Colour

We often lose the feeling of immediacy when looking at old photographs. Their black-and-white silver-based film somehow leaches not only the color out of the picture, but also the life. True, if you’re a historian you thrill to a good picture of a key individual, unit, piece of equipment or (especially) moment, and a lot of those old pictures were taken with very high quality cameras onto large glass or film negatives. But how sad it is they are not in color!

Enter Royston Colour (facebook link). This guy, presumably the eponymous Royston (Leonard), colorizes period photos and brings them to life, and his principal interest seems to be military history (although he’ll certainly do a period picture for the sheer art of it).

Here’s an example of one of those perfectly composes Speed Graphic images from the US national archives…

royston - korean war jets before

…and here’s what Royston has done with it. His OD Green is a little too green, but other than that, his color makes the image of a Korean frontline airfield come to life. Moreover, on his page, he recounts the fate of each of the F-86 Sabres in the foreground (archival information about US aircraft abounds).

royston - korean war jets

Marines or soldiers on Guam, one of the last battles of the Pacific War, pass two knocked-out Japanese Type 95 Ha-Go tanks.

Japanese t-95 ha-go tanks guam 44 royston

We know this picture came from Stalingrad. We even know this tough-looking German’s name (Hauptmann Friedrich Konrad Winkler), his provenance (a prewar volunteer, he was commissioned from the ranks, not unusual in the Wehrmacht) and fate (he was taken alive by the Soviets in February 1943, but like most who fell captive in the East, died in captivity). The Germans treated Russian prisoners, but not Americans or Englishmen, just as badly as the Russians treated theirs; war in the East was war beyond civilized norms. It might as well have been no quarter asked or given; both sides’ soldiers feared captivity more than death.

royston stalingrad

He’s using a Russian PPSh submachine gun (the Germans used them in 7.62mm and converted to 9mm) and his helmet cover is Red Army camouflage material. The picture was taken during the defense of the Barrikady factory complex in the north of Stalingrad, presumably by a German field camera unit; they and their pictures must have been captured by the Soviets.

Royston has quite a few Stalingrad pictures, and they’re reminiscent in the bleakness of their terrain and what they hint about the horror of the fight there, to his many pictures of World War I.

Finally, he also dabbles in restoration. Can this image, double-exposed and with a broken glass plate, be restored?

Royston Ruined

Here’s how Royston did:

Royston Restored

That was a couple of weeks’ work. Still, somebody needs to hire this guy — the Imperial War Museum, perhaps. Meanwhile we can all enjoy his work at the site.

12 thoughts on “Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Royston Colour

  1. E Garrett Perry

    I shall always remember the pity expressed by Allied POWs whenever the “poor bloody Russians” were mentioned. Charles Coward in particular makes repeated mention of their plight, even stating after his escapade in Auschwitz-1 that he remained unsure of whether the Jewish internees or Soviet POWs had it worse. Considering his description of the Jewish section of Auschwitz-1, and the revulsion which it inspired, that’s a helluva statement. He obviously never got into the Soviet portions of any of his many Stalags, but they were as skinny as the Auschewitz Jews in his observation.

    And then when they got home again (the one percent or so who did), after years of starvation and brutality the likes of which few modern Westerners can even concieve, Stalin had them all shot or sent straight back to prison.

    1. JoeFour

      Not to excuse the Germans but to fill out the story a bit … my understanding is that the Germans made numerous attempts to get the Russians to agree to treat German POWs in accordance with Geneva Convention protocols with the incentive being comparable treatment of Russian POWs … those efforts met with no success (apparently because of direct orders from Stalin himself) … and resulted in the terribly harsh treatment of the Russian POWs …

      1. Hognose Post author

        I find that hard to believe. Nazi ideology did not recognize Slavs as fully human. The Nazis (perhaps not the Wehrmacht’s professional officers, but they worked for the Nazis) wanted the Russians exterminated.

  2. Aesop

    I’m just enjoying the serendipitous badging of a row of ass-kicking F-86s (from back when we killed communists rather than electing them) with the tres apropos prefix “FU”.

    But I’m bookmarking the site for a day when I have some idle hours to spend falling down the internet wormhole.

    1. Badger

      Indeed. Thanks for sharing that link. Something to be savored for the long winters comrade. ;)
      That man does phenomenal work & evinces a true calling rather than a hobby. One can hope the red-nosed F-86 didn’t end up like the proverbial wearer of the red shirt on a Star Trek landing party.

      Yet, even when colourized, the Stalingrad photos remain a stark depiction of hell.

    2. Hognose Post author

      “Buzz Numbers” were put on in the late 40s to discourage flat-hatting in the populated USA. Every type had its own two letter code; all fighters began with F, 86s were FU. F-51 was FF, F-100 was FW. There’s a list here:

      The three digits were the last three of the serial number. The serial number had a two-digit year (contract year the plane was bought) and then USAF aircraft were in sequential blocks by type.

  3. BAP45

    Theres a group of Facebook pages that have his work as well as other on them. “Ww2 colourised photos,” “ww1 colourised photos,” and “the forgotten korean war in color.”

    Some are just ok but some are so well done they seem like they are modern photos.

  4. Alan Ward

    Freaking awesome. There goes another day of summer break!
    Thanks for the examples and link. I love importing these photos into my jigsaw puzzle app and relaxing with them late at night.

  5. Tennessee Budd

    Damn! I usually bookmark the WWWotW, but I don’t do Flakebook. Maybe a Google image search…

  6. Bill T

    My Dad was a Maintenance Officer at Brookley Field in Mobile AL. who’s crew rebuilt F86s to be sent to Korea. When he was deployed it was with a Tac Recon Squadron out of Kempo Air base also home of a large group of F86s. He wrote Mom that every time he went through one of their hangers he saw a crate of parts with his name on it. It was like getting a letter from home.

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