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The Battle of the Somme 1916

Description of film

The clip starts with a title and sequence showing British tommies rescuing a fallen comrade who later died. We then see the famous shot of a soldier carrying his fallen comrade. The action then shifts to more shots of wounded on stretchers and making their way to a dressing station. The next title shows us a Lancashire Battalion returning from a successful attack, with friend and foe helping each other. The foe in this case is German. In the next scene we see German prisoners being processed in a well-defended camp behind the front line. The next title and scene shows the prisoners being well treated and communicating with their British guards. British and German wounded are also in evidence.

Context

'The Battle of the Somme' was released in 1916. The government did not produce it, but they did approve it. The film was deeply controversial because the battle scenes were so shocking. Many observers felt it was too graphic. On the other hand, it appears that people appreciated the reality of the film-making. They preferred a film like 'The Battle of the Somme' because it didn't try to pretend that war was easy or fun. People probably already had a good idea of what trench warfare was like from local newspapers and from talking to soldiers on leave.

Interesting or important points about the film

This sequence from the Somme offers a fascinating mix of questions and answers. On the one hand, we see the same graphic representation of the war. Many of the titles tell us of successes and advances. Are these titles propaganda? Have they selected small successes and ignored the disasters at the Somme? Did the film-makers know the full story and would they have been allowed to tell it? Another interesting point is the footage of prisoners. They are being well treated and the large number of prisoners suggests success in battle. Is this a deliberate attempt to create a particular impression? Or is it that shots like these were easy and safe to do with the equipment of the time?

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Further information
Category1900-45
Sub categoryThe Great War
FilmThe Battle of the Somme 1916
SourceIWM 191
ProducerBritish Topical Committee for War Films
Year1916
Date11th August 1916
Length4:16