Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history
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”.
Photo: On leave ... a message to the folks at home (Copyright: The Thuillier Collection)
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