Colorized Photos of Wartime Animals Reveal Their Sacrifice

A dog and cat in a major world war

A talented photo colorizer has paid a tribute to wartime animals by breathing a new and colorful life into historical photographs that depict them and their sacrifices.

Tom Marshall is a professional photo colorizer based in Leicestershire, United Kingdom. He has worked with some of the world’s leading museums, photo archives, publishers, as well as numerous private clients.

Marshall lives close to the base of the Defence Animal Training Regiment that still to this day trains military working dogs and horses. He has a personal interest in wartime stories about heroic animals that have helped people in service and those used as mascots and companions. Each year for Remembrance Sunday, the Royal Army Veterinary Association will take part in a parade through the town, making sure the animal sacrifices of wars past and present are not forgotten.

With his personal tribute to the impact these animals have made, Marshall has colorized a collection of images, some of which are over 100 years old. Marshall points out that some of the animals photographed were later officially recognized by means of the Dickin medal. This award was instituted to honor the work of animals in the Second World War and continues to this day.

Colorized photograph by Tom Marshall
The photograph above depicts an unnamed British Royal Artillery soldier with his kitten, taken around 1917. Animals were often brought into the trenches, sometimes as a mascot for the regiment. In this case, the kitten might have been picked up from a local farm or a destroyed village.

“I colorized the photos as a tribute to the animals pictured, because I believe that color adds another dimension to historic images, and helps modern eyes to connect with the subjects, more than with a black and white photo,” Marshall tells PetaPixel. “I have found that black and white images are too often sadly ignored, especially by younger generations, and by colorizing the photos, I hope that more people will stop to learn more about the subjects and what the animals went through 100 years ago and throughout the past century.”

Each photograph tells a story of the relationship and bond shared between people and animals. Although animals share unconditional love and dedication to people, this collection also reminds us that they too are victims of human war. They didn’t choose to be there, even though circumstances led to it.

Colorized photograph by Tom Marshall
The group photo is a picture postcard, dated December 1909. Marshall was commissioned to colorize the photo by descendants of William Field, third from the left.
An unknown British Tommy from the ‘A’ Squadron, the North Irish Horse Regiment. It is estimated that eight million horses, mules and donkeys died during the First World War.
The ship’s cat has been common feature on many trading, exploration and naval ships dating to ancient times. They were used to attack and kill rodents which would cause damage to ropes, woodwork, food, and stores, and would spread disease. These two kittens lived aboard HMS Hawkins, a heavy cruiser built by the Royal Navy during the First World War, though not completed until 1919. The kittens are pictured inside the barrel of a 7.5-inch gun. The Royal Navy banned cats and other pet animals from all ships on the ocean in 1975 on hygiene grounds, however cats are still common on many private ships.
Simon was a ship’s cat who served on the Royal Navy sloop-of-war HMS Amethyst. He was adept at catching and killing rats on the lower decks. Simon rapidly gained a reputation for cheekiness, leaving presents of dead rats in sailors’ beds, and sleeping in the captain’s cap. In 1949, during the Yangtze Incident, he received the PDSA’s Dickin Medal after surviving injuries from a cannon shell that tore through the captain’s cabin seriously wounding Simon and killing the captain. The badly wounded cat crawled onto deck, and was rushed to the medical bay, where the ship’s surviving medical staff cleaned his burns, and removed four pieces of shrapnel, but he was not expected to last the night. He managed to survive, however, and after a period of recovery, returned to his former duties catching rats. He is still the only cat to have been awarded the Dickin Medal as of 2021.
A sergeant of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps bandages the wounded ear of ‘Jasper’, a mine-detecting dog at Bayeux in Normandy, 5th July 1944.
Rip was a mixed breed terrier awarded the Dickin Medal for bravery in 1945. He was found as a stray in Poplar, London, in 1940 by an Air Raid Warden Mr. E King, and became the service’s first search and rescue dog. He is credited with saving the lives of over 100 people. Rip was not trained for search and rescue work, but took to it instinctively and his success has been held partially responsible for prompting the authorities to train search and rescue dogs towards the end of the Second World War.
A bulldog looking out the porthole of a ship in 1941
Venus the bulldog mascot of the destroyer HMS Vansittart, 1941.
Colorized photograph by Tom Marshall
HMS Stork’s mascot, on board ship, Liverpool, 18th May 1941.
Colorized photograph by Tom Marshall
Aircrew was a young cat adopted by the Royal Australian Air Force Flying Training School, Cressy, Victoria, Australia.
Colorized photograph by Tom Marshall
Horses pull makeshift sleds through the mud of the First World War.
Colorized photograph by Tom Marshall
A Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps Captain and horse c.1916.
Colorized photograph by Tom Marshall
A horse and soldier transporting boots. The path is inches deep in wet mud discernible by the deep imprint round the soldier’s boot and the fact that the horse’s hooves are no longer visible. Rather than cloth puttees though he is wearing long lace-up boots. The horse is absolutely laden with rubber trench waders. Horses, due to their reliability and ability to travel over most terrains were crucial to transportation during the First World War.
Colorized photograph by Tom Marshall
A B-type bus converted into a pigeon loft enabling messages to be sent from the front line back to headquarters. Over 100,000 carrier pigeons were used as messengers throughout WW1 and records show they delivered 95% of their messages correctly.

You can find more of Marshall’s work on his website and Instagram page.

Image credits: All images courtesy of Tom Marshall and used with permission.