The Great War (documentary)
|The Great War|
This image, from the Imperial War Museum photo archive, formed part of The Great War's opening titles.
|Narrated by||Michael Redgrave|
|Theme music composer||Wilfred Josephs|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||26|
|Running time||40 minutes|
|Original release||30 May – 22 November 1964|
The Great War is a 26-episode documentary series from 1964 on the First World War. The documentary was a co-production involving the resources of the Imperial War Museum, the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The narrator was Michael Redgrave, with readings by Marius Goring, Ralph Richardson, Cyril Luckham, Sebastian Shaw and Emlyn Williams. Each episode is c. 40 minutes long.
In August 1963, at the suggestion of Alasdair Milne, producer of the BBC's current affairs programme Tonight, the BBC resolved to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War with a major television project. The series was the first to feature veterans, many of them still relatively fit men in their late sixties or early seventies, speaking of their experiences after a public appeal for veterans was published in the national press. Those who appeared in the series included Edward Spears, Henry Williamson, Horace Birks, Benjamin Muse, George Langley, Charles Carrington, Egbert Cadbury, Euan Rabagliati  and Cecil Arthur Lewis. Others who were interviewed by the BBC, but not featured in the series included Norman MacMillan, Edgar von Spiegel, John Shea, Robert Cotton Money, Hans Howaldt, and Eric Dorman O'Gowan.
The series title sequence used a rostrum camera to create montage of three images, the first showing a silhouetted British soldier standing over the grave of a comrade, the camera first focuses on the cross, where the almost imperceptible words IN MEMORY are glanced, the second shows a uniformed, skeletal corpse by the entrance to a dugout. The final image shows a lone British soldier, looking directly into the camera apparently surrounded by corpses, which is a montage of several images combined for dramatic effect. The original image of the staring soldier, showing him surrounded by fellow soldiers rather than corpses, was taken from photograph Q 1 in the Imperial War Museum photograph archive but has been described as having quickly become symbolic of the First World War.[nb 1] This title sequence was set against the series theme music, composed by Wilfred Josephs and performed by the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra.
The episode titles are taken from quotations, the origins of which are shown in parentheses. With few exceptions, successive blocks of episodes are devoted to each year of the war: episodes 1–6 to 1914, 7–10 to 1915, 11–14 to 1916, 15–19 to 1917, 20–23 and 26 to 1918.
- "on the idle hill of summer..." (A. E. Housman)
- "for such a stupid reason too...." (Queen Mary)
- "we must hack our way through" (Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg)
- "our hats we doff to General Joffre" (1914 jingle)
- "this business may last a long time" (Rudolf Binding)
- The stabilization of the fronts. The First Battle of the Marne, the Race to the Sea, the Siege of Antwerp, and the First Battle of Ypres in the West; Austrian defeats in Serbia and in Galicia in the East. Reprisals against Germans in Britain, mass enlistment in the British Empire, and Christmas at the front lines.
- "so sleep easy in your beds" (Admiral Fisher)
- The first months of war at sea. Naval supremacy of the Royal Navy and its vulnerabilities to mine and submarine warfare. The seizure of German overseas colonies, the Siege of Tsingtao, the raids of the Emden and the pursuit of Maximilian von Spee. The naval Battle of Heligoland Bight, Battle of Coronel, Battle of the Falkland Islands and the Battle of Dogger Bank.
- "we await the heavenly manna..." (Nikolai Yanushkevich, Russian General)
- War in Europe in the first half of 1915. German success at the Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes, Russian Siege of Przemyśl, German Gorlice–Tarnów Offensive and Russian collapse due to severe shortage of materiel. German use of poison gas at the Second Battle of Ypres, British munitions shortage and the role of wartime industrial production.
- "why don't you come and help!" (David Lloyd George)
- "please God send us a victory...." (soldiers prayer)
- "what are our Allies doing?" (Russian General)
- The war in the latter half of 1915, marked by successes of Central Powers. German and Austrian advance in the East, Russian withdrawal. Italy enters the war on the Allied side, attacking Austria and is stopped at the river Battles of the Isonzo. The Allied offensive in the Second Battle of Champagne and Third Battle of Artois falters. Serbia is overrun by German and Austrian troops, with Bulgaria joining the war in this operation, on the side of the Central Powers. Allied relief troops land in Salonika but are delayed by Greek internal politics, while Serb and Montenegrin forces and civilians flee through Albania to Corfu.
- "hell cannot be so terrible" (a French soldier)
- The Battle of Verdun through June 1916, with a brief look at the civilian life in France at the time.
- "... for Gawd's sake don't send me." (1916 song)
- "the Devil is coming..." (German soldier)
- "all this it is our duty to bear" (Lord Lansdowne)
- War-weariness across Europe. In Britain, conscription, loss of shipping to German U-boats, Easter Rising in Dublin, the Battle of Jutland and the death of Earl Kitchener. In Germany and Austria, loss of morale, construction of the Hindenburg Line and the death of Emperor Franz Joseph. In Russia, discontent bordering on revolution. A change of guard in Britain, Germany and France, favouring continuation of war.
- "we are betrayed, sold, lost" (French soldier)
- "right is more precious than peace" (President Wilson)
- United States enters the war. U.S. foreign policy in early 20th century. Non-interventionism at war's outset, swings of public opinion, industrial production favouring the Allies. Wilson's re-election and the declaration of war on Germany, prompted by the Zimmermann Telegram and unrestricted submarine warfare. Preparations for war, conscription, General Pershing's arrival in Europe.
- "surely we have perished" (Wilfred Owen)
- "fat Rodzianko has sent me some nonsense" (Czar Nicholas II)
- Russian revolutions of 1917. Overview of life in imperial Russia and of consequences of war. Food revolts lead to February Revolution, the Czar abdicates. The Provisional Government continues the war, Germany helps Vladimir Lenin return to Petrograd. Failure of Kerensky Offensive, widespread desertions, October Revolution. Germany supports independence of Ukraine and Finland, forces the punitive Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on the Bolsheviks.
- "the hell where youth and laughter go" (Siegfried Sassoon)
- The Western Front at the end of 1917. Experiences: artistic portrayals, sounds and smells of the war, aerial photographs. The discrepancy in perceptions between soldiers and civilians, psychological breakdowns, sense of belonging to the unit. Georges Clemenceau becomes French Prime Minister, the Battle of Cambrai ends in stalemate.
- "only war, nothing but war" (Clemenceau)
- Impact of war on everyday life. Shell shock. Censorship and propaganda. British naval blockade leads to starvation diets in Germany. German submarine warfare, countermeasures, food shortages and rationing in Britain. Use of women's labour, better labour policies, women's suffrage. Zeppelin air raids, air defence, Gotha Raids. Mustard gas, railway guns, Paris Gun.
- "it was like the end of the world" (German soldier)
- "damn them, are they never coming in?" (F. S. Oliver)
- "when must the end be?" (Hindenburg)
- "Allah made Mesopotamia—and added flies" (Arabian proverb)
- War in the Middle East. British capture Basra and mount an unsuccessful campaign toward Baghdad. Ottomans fail to capture Suez but check the British advance in Palestine. Britain encourages Arab Revolt against the weakened Ottomans, then captures Baghdad, Jerusalem and in 1918, Damascus. The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the seeds of future conflicts.
- "the iron thrones are falling" (British officer)
- War on the frontiers of Austria-Hungary, in the Balkans and in Italy. Allied troops in Greece establish the Macedonian Front but do not advance, the Central Powers occupy Romania. Allied intervention brings Greece to their side. Austrian and German troops breach the Italian front at the Battle of Caporetto and stop just short of Venice but next Austrian assault at the Piave fails. Allies breach the Macedonian Front, Bulgaria capitulates. Czechoslovakia and South Slavs declare independence, Italy launches counter-offensive Battle of Vittorio Veneto, Austria-Hungary capitulates and dissolves.
- "...and we were young" (A. E. Housman)
- War's end. Allied Hundred Days' Offensive in the West continues, US President Wilson offers Fourteen Points as peace terms. Germany's allies capitulate after defeats on other fronts. Revolution in Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm abdicates, Germany accepts peace terms. Human costs of war, reception and celebration of the armistice.
Two "Extra" episodes exist (only on the dual layer DVD edition):
- Voices from the Western Front
- The Finished Fighter
The music for the series was composed by Wilfred Josephs. It was performed by the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra conducted by George Hurst. His expressive yet unsentimental score was widely acclaimed at the time and many have recalled the strong contribution it made to the series: in August 2007, Guardian columnist Ian Jack remembered how at the start of each episode Josephs' 'ominous music ushered the audience into the trenches'. Much use was made of 20th Century symphonies, including Shostakovitch's 11th and Vaughan Williams' Sinfonia Antartica. The opening music is the last refrain from Rachmaninov's Symphony No 1. Such musical references do not appear in the credits, therefore a full list of these extra musical elements would be welcome.[nb 2]
Each episode of The Great War was seen by an average audience of over eight million people, a 17 percent share of the estimated viewing population. The fourth episode, the most popular of the series, reached an audience of over eleven million (22.6 percent of the audience).
First World War centenary
On 16 October 2013, fifty years after the release of the series, the BBC announced that unshown interview material, recorded during the making of The Great War, will be used in a new programme, My Great War, to be shown as part of the BBC's programmes during the First World War centenary. The programme was first broadcast on 14 March 2014 and entitled "I Was There: the Great War Interviews".
There appear to be two releases as of mid-2007, both in the UK, both Region 2. The audio has been remastered. The first shows copyright 2001 and consists of five volumes, each housing two DVDs (single-layer). On the cover descriptions there is no mention of the Extra episodes The other shows copyright 2002 and consists of seven DVDs — six containing the original 26 episodes and one with the two Extras. These discs are dual-layer. It is distributed by DD Video. In October 2007 the Daily Mail distributed the series on DVD to its readers as part of a promotion.
|This section requires expansion. (March 2008)|
- World War One – CBS production (1964)
- The World at War - Thames Television production (1973)
- The Somme – From Defeat to Victory BBC production (2006)
- The other two photographs were also taken from the Imperial War Museum photograph archive. The first, of the soldier standing over the grave, was Q 2757 and the second was Q 2041. The photographs were taken by Ernest Brooks, a British Army official photographer.
- Episode 12: "Land of Hope and Glory", "For Gawd's Sake Don't Send Me", "The British Grenadiers", "Abide With Me", Shostakovich, Sym. 11, mov. 2; Episode 14: Shostakovich: Sym. 11, mov. 2, Chopin: Marche funebre, "Abide With Me", "Noel", "Keep the Home Fires Burning".
- Hanna 2007, p. 95.
- Opening sequence; amended imagery appears at 38 seconds
- Hanna 2007, p. 97.
- Hanna 2007, p. 101.
- Hanna 2007, p. 99.
- Lloyd George 1933, p. 389.
- Jack 2007.
- Todman 2002, p. 29.
- Irish Times 1964.
- BBC 2013.
- Cdcovers.cc / DVD / The Great War Disk 1-2 / front
- Cdcovers.cc / DVD / The Great War Disk 3-4 / front
- Cdcovers.cc / DVD / The Great War Disk 5-6 / front
- Cdcovers.cc / DVD / The Great War Disk 7-8 / front
- Cdcovers.cc / DVD / The Great War Disk 9-10 / front
- Barnett 2007.
- Lloyd George, D. (1933). War Memoirs of David Lloyd George. I (Little, Brown, Boston 1937 ed.). London: Nicholson & Watson. OCLC 18436449.
- Hanna, E. (February 2007). "A Small Screen Alternative to Stone and Bronze: The Great War Series and British Television". European Journal of Cultural Studies. 10 (1). ISSN 1460-3551. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
- "Television Awards Presented". The Irish Times. 2 December 1964. ISSN 1699-311X.
- Jack, I. (11 August 2007). "Historical Anniversaries Obliterate the Kingdom of Individuals". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
- Todman, D. (2002). "The Reception of The Great War in the 1960s". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. 22 (1): 29–36. doi:10.1080/01439680220120264. ISSN 0143-9685.
- Barnett, C. (12 October 2007). "Fought on the Bloody French Battlefields Nearly 100 Years Ago, How the Great War Still Impacts On Us Today". Mail Online. ISSN 0307-7578. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- BBC (16 October 2013). "Marking the Centenary of World War One Across the BBC: Documentaries". Retrieved 17 October 2013.
- Badsey, S. (2002). "The Great War Since The Great War". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. 22 (1): 37–45. doi:10.1080/01439680220120273. ISSN 0143-9685.
- Connelly, M. L. (2002). "The Great War: The Devil is Coming (Part 13)". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. 22 (1): 21–28. doi:10.1080/01439680220120255. ISSN 0143-9685.
- Kuehl, J. (2003). "The Great War on DD Video (Review Essay)". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. 23 (3): 285–287. doi:10.1080/0143968032000095613. ISSN 0143-9685.
- Ramsden, J. A. (2002). "The Great War: The Making of the Series". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. 22 (1): 7–19. doi:10.1080/01439680220120246. ISSN 0143-9685.
- How the Great War Was Lost - and Found (The review wrongly implies the score for the series was either indebted to, or written by Sir William Walton, whom it also erroneously cites for the score of Scott of the Antarctic, written by Ralph Vaughan Williams.)
- The Great War, Episode 6
- The Great War at the Internet Movie Database
- IWM Interview with Euan Rabagliati, who appeared in "We Must Hack Our Way Through"
- IWM Interview with Ernest Amis, who appeared in "So Sleep Easy In Your Beds"
- IWM Interview with Joseph Murray, who appeared in "Please God Send Us A Victory"
- IWM Interview with Richard Talbot Kelly, who appeared in "What Are Our Allies Doing?" & "Surely We Have Perished"
- IWM Interview with Horace Birks, who appeared in "The Hell Where Youth And Laughter Go"
- IWM Interview with Herbert Sulzbach, who appeared in "And We Were Young"