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World History

Ghosts of the World Wars: Haunting images take you back in time combining historical photographs with their modern-day settings

Weary soldiers appear alongside tourists and the trenches of France are refilled

The images are haunting: Ghostly figures marching across modern-day Westminster Bridge, Canadian mortar teams in the ruins at Ortona, Italy, and thousands of weary troops passing tourists and Renault Clios up a French jetty.

It may take your eyes a moment or two to adjust to what is going on, but these extraordinary photographs are the painstaking work of a team of war historians working across Europe to take the viewer on a journey back through time.

They combine a famous historical image with the same setting in 2014, seamlessly blurring scenes to inject the chaos of war into the peace of modern-day France, Britain, Germany and more.

Read more: A history of the First World War in 100 moments

The Ghosts of History project was founded by Devon-based Jack Beckett and the Dutch historian and artist Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse, who travelled around the world picking up old images at flea markets and then finding and photographing their exact settings.

Also supported by two artists based in the UK and Russia, their pictures have received worldwide appreciation and a Facebook page featuring regular batches of new additions has more than 55,000 enthusiastic followers.

With this year marking both 100 years since the start of the First World War and 70 years since the D-Day landings, imagining what Europe was like for those fighting at the time can be increasingly difficult.

But Mr Beckett, 46, told The Independent that the anniversaries had seen interest in WWI and II history “grow and grow”.

He said: “As a rule that interest is always there in Britain, but its really back again in the national psyche and we're expecting a real spike when the 70th anniversary comes around.”

He said the images initially trick the brain, and people often struggle to work out exactly what they are looking at.

“We are offering people the chance to travel back in time, however slightly,” Mr Beckett said.

Ghosts of History sell the photographs on canvasses and as framed prints, and Mr Beckett said people tell him the pictures offer an unusual “talking point” in the home.

“You can say 'oh, and this is Hitler in front of the [modern day] Eiffel Tower' - and that's a lot more interesting than what many people have on their walls.”

Mr Beckett also praised The Independent's series of articles offering A History of the First World War in 100 Moments. He said: “It's fantastic... that we can celebrate - not war - but the role this country has played in the past.”

Mr Beckett is the founder of War History Online, while Ms Teeuwisse formed the Historical Consultancy 30-45, an agency helping film and TV companies make their historical productions more authentic and accurate.

On the Ghosts of History website it says that “for as long as she can remember she has been fascinated by history”. It adds: “As a little girl she loved looking at old photos and imagining what life would have been like if she was born earlier.”