Was your relative among THOUSANDS who had a photo taken at the WW1 outdoor studio in Northern France?
Beaming in their donkey-eared uniforms, British troops pose for a group photo as a bomb-damaged French basilica looms in the background.
Others, taking a break from the ravages of the fighting on the Western Front, stand or sit trying to look their best against a backdrop of brickwork and hanging fabric.
These men were just a few of the thousands of British, French and Canadian troops who photographed in the same outdoor studio in Albert, northern France, during World War I.
Many of the images were captioned “Somewhere in France,” a nod to the censors who tried to ensure troop positions wouldn’t turn back to the German enemy.
But several shots with the Albertus Basilica of Our Lady of Brebières in the background, complete with the toppled Golden Virgin hanging from its spire, show how the men were unafraid to defy censorship by revealing their locations.
The images were shared with MailOnline by leading historians Robin Schafer, Professor Peter Doyle and Taff Gillingham, knowing that hundreds of other similar photos must lie in British, French and Canadian homes.
They are calling on MailOnline readers to search their homes and family photo albums in the hopes of finding photos that were also shot at the Albert studio.
Beaming in their donkey-eared uniforms, British troops pose for a group photo as a bomb-damaged French basilica looms in the background. These men were just a few of the thousands of British and French troops who were photographed in the same outdoor studio in Albert, northern France, during World War I.
Many of the images were captioned “Somewhere in France,” a nod to the censors who tried to ensure troop positions wouldn’t turn back to the German enemy. Above: The brickwork, floor and fabric backdrop – as well as the caption – are all signs revealing how the photo was one of those shot at the Albert studio
Telltale signs include the inscription “Somewhere in France,” chalk on the boots of the troops, the presence of the basilica, and the brickwork in the background in the outdoor studio.
The cobbled or tiled floor, fabric backdrop, chairs or stools and the confiscated German ‘Pickelhaube’ helmets worn by some of the troops also indicate that the footage was taken in Albert.
All photos were taken between 1915 and 1917 – before, during and after the gruesome Battle of the Somme, when more than 600,000 Allied troops were killed or wounded in just over three months.
The chalky boots of the troops in Albert provide further clues to their location, which was only a few miles from the front.
The photos, believed to have been taken by a French photographer in the garden of a house in Albert, are unique in that most of the studio shots were taken at least 25 miles from the front line.
German military historian Mr. Schafer said: ‘Albert is actually the front. It is well within artillery range. It’s not far behind the lines, but maybe they went there for a short break.
“That’s why they were all dirty and they had their guns.”
British troops from Dundee in Scotland pose in Albert wearing their fur coats, with a sign at their feet saying ‘Somewhere in France’
A French soldier poses for a photo. The floor and fabric background in this photo show how this was also shot in the Albert studio
This soldier also wears a Pickelhaube helmet, while the chair he rests on can be seen in other images. Britons may notice that images in the family photo album feature the same chair
Many of the images were found in a photo album of a German soldier later purchased on Ebay by Mr. Schafer.
By the spring of 1918, Albert had been largely destroyed by shellfire and then captured by the Germans after their devastating offensive.
The German soldier would have come across copies of the images in the home studio.
He wrote in the album how the house “collapsed” shortly after he found the footage.
There were multiple copies of images because soldiers would have returned to the studio to collect them and send them to relatives.
Professor Doyle, an author and military historian, said: ‘We want to try and collect as many images as possible to get a picture of the men who went through that studio.
“The men of different ages, different uniforms, men we can identify as different regiments.
“There will be loads of images all over the UK. We can place those men in Albert from the floor and background.
‘It’s quite exciting. We hope that this crowdsourcing approach provides a real snapshot of the men walking through the studio.’
The historians hope that by analyzing as many images as possible, they can get a clearer idea of which regiments of troops and companies passed through Albert and when they did so.
They are then planning an exhibition of the statues, possibly next year on the 110th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I.
Mr Gillingham, who runs the Great War Huts museum in Hawstead, Suffolk, said: ‘The ones I particularly like are where it says ‘Somewhere in France’ because censorship meant you couldn’t tell where you were.
“The photographer made sure the basilica was behind them.
The chalky boots (circled) of the troops in Albert provide further clues to their location, just a few miles from the front. The men pose with a sign reading ‘Somewhere in France’ and ‘Dundee Lads’
Canadian troops pose in their uniforms in the outdoor studio in Albert. One of them is wearing a German Pickelhaube helmet that he received as a prop
French soldiers were less concerned with revealing their location, as evidenced by this man standing by a sign indicating he is in Albert. The basilica in the background is another clue
“So everyone knew exactly where they were, but if you’d paid the photographer and kept them in your wallet, the censor wouldn’t have known about them.
“I like the humor of that, that the photographer had a joke that all the soldiers were on.
“He was wise enough to settle in a town that was a great railhead, so he had a lot of customers, which explains why there are so many now.”
Speaking of hoping to discover more pictures of ordinary Britons, he added: “We get to see the images, we get more information and in return the people who got them will learn more about their relatives in the First World War. ‘
During the German offensive in 1918, the Albert Basilica was completely destroyed before being rebuilt in the late 1920s.