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Lost & Found: The Thuillier Collection - (UPDATED with video) one of the most important historical discoveries from WWI

A treasure trove of more than 3,000 World War I glass plate negatives of  British, Indian, French, Australians, and Americans, and even some of the Chinese Labour Corps and other allied troops have been found, sitting almost undisturbed for nearly a century, in three large chests in a dusty attic of a dilapidated farmhouse in Vignacourt in the Somme valley, some two hours north of Paris. Named after the photographers, local farmer Louis Thuillier and his wife Antoinette, "The Thuillier Collection" was almost lost to history because the farmhouse where they were stored is likely to be sold in coming months and their descendants had no idea of the historical significance of the plates.

Throughout much of the war they photographed the fighting men who came to their humble outdoor studio in the courtyard of their house. Thousands of their photographs must have found their way to homes around the world, including Australia. Remarkably the Thuilliers’ glass plate negatives still exist, sitting almost undisturbed for nearly a century.  They have recently been located by investigators from Australia’s Channel 7.  The TV program has secured almost 500 of the plates from a Thuillier family relative, Henriette Crognier. When she heard of the great interest in the plates, she insisted on donating them to Australia.

Research at the Australian War Memorial indicates that the Australian photographs were mostly taken in November 1916 and during November-December 1918.  Among the latter are scenes of celebration on the day the war ended, 11 November 1918.  As Australian War Memorial head of military history, Ashley Ekins, said the ‘Thuillier Collection’ is an extremely valuable collection of images of Australian and other allied soldiers just behind the frontlines, one of the “most important discoveries from the First World War”.

You can catch a preview of the programme "The Lost Diggers" and a gallery of the photos here, as well as an article from the Australian War Memorial here.

 

 

 

Photo:  On leave ... a message to the folks at home (Copyright: The Thuillier Collection)

 

 

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Comment by Janda Gooding on April 3, 2012 at 0:03

For those following this story, the Thuillier collection of glass plate negatives numbers around 4,500. Of these about 1,600 plates show British serving men, 750 Australians, 200 French soldiers, and smaller numbers of Chinese Labour Corps, Indian and Nepalese serving men, Americans and Morrocans, There are about 1200 photographs of civilians. Channel 7 [TV company] has posted most of the Australian related images. People enquiring about the collection can contact Channel 7 or the Australian War Memorial here [http://www.awm.gov.au/blog/2012/03/28/update-on-the-lost-diggers-ph...] We hope to upload images of the collection to our website towards the end of the year.

Janda Gooding

Head of Photographs

Australian War Memorial

Comment by Lorayne Branch on March 17, 2011 at 7:41
Following up on my last posting about the collection and my relative: I have heard from The Australian War Memorial who have checked my relatives records and they informed me that  he would not have had time to get photographed before he died. At least I now know there is no photograph of him in the collection.
Comment by Michael Wong on March 2, 2011 at 10:02

For those who are interested in this topic, The Independent, back in 2009, reported on the find of a smaller trove of Tommies photos taken in late 1915/early 1916.  Back then, the Independent Magazine published a large selection of the images for the first time - I think one can viewed all the 286 images here. The full news article can be found here, and a request to help with the identification here.

Comment by Michael Wong on March 1, 2011 at 22:59
Jonathan, I think you can find a fair selection, if not all, of the images on this Facebook site here.
Comment by Jonathan Dore on March 1, 2011 at 18:47
Wonderful stuff. Any chance of the whole collection being digitized and made available online?
Comment by Michael Wong on February 27, 2011 at 22:41
Good luck, and hope you will manage to recognise/trace your family member through the dedicated Facebook site here.
Comment by Lorayne Branch on February 27, 2011 at 22:30
What a fabulous find and collection, I have a family member who died at Flers and he could have been photographed and will see if I can find out more to see if there is an image of him.

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