Somme Films

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Jim Smith
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Somme Films

Postby Jim Smith » Mon Mar 09, 2009 6:37 pm

Hi all

As a teacher of history, I'm presently doing the Somme with both Y9 (13-14) and Y13 (17-18). I have two documentaries, each of which is good in its own way: the BBC 'Somme, Defeat to Victory' and Channel Four's 'Somme' of 2005. I think each has its pluses and minuses, hence both get shown. Seems that the BBC one paints the big picture well and (a big plus point for me), goes some way towards balancing out the often overplayed 'lions led by donkeys' line. The Channel Four one deals with the individual soldier's experinces much better I feel. That said, I understand that after it first aired in November 2005 people were lining up to slate it for everything from mawkish sentimentality (not guilty IMO) to playing fast and loose with historical fact.

Thoughts from you guys (and girls) in khaki?


"I hold it to be of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and
insulting words towards any one, for neither the one nor the other in any
way diminishes the strength of the enemy." Niccolo Machiavelli

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Postby pebblemonkey » Mon Mar 09, 2009 9:14 pm

Hi Jim,
I'm no expert on WW1, But what we used to watch when i was doing GCSE stuff was "Blackadder goes forth" , which probably got me interested in history. :wink:

Matt


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Lord Byron
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Re: Somme Films

Postby Lord Byron » Mon Mar 09, 2009 9:39 pm

Jim Smith wrote:Hi all

As a teacher of history, I'm presently doing the Somme with both Y9 (13-14) and Y13 (17-18). I have two documentaries, each of which is good in its own way: the BBC 'Somme, Defeat to Victory' and Channel Four's 'Somme' of 2005. I think each has its pluses and minuses, hence both get shown. Seems that the BBC one paints the big picture well and (a big plus point for me), goes some way towards balancing out the often overplayed 'lions led by donkeys' line. The Channel Four one deals with the individual soldier's experinces much better I feel. That said, I understand that after it first aired in November 2005 people were lining up to slate it for everything from mawkish sentimentality (not guilty IMO) to playing fast and loose with historical fact.

Thoughts from you guys (and girls) in khaki?


As one of those involved in the making of "The Somme - From Defeat to Victory", I am perhaps a little biased when I say which I regard as the better of the two programmes. :wink: However, in Great War circles after the Channel 4 programme was released it was fairly widely slagged off in Great War circles. To those with a good basic understanding of the Somme already it really didn't add a lot that wasn't already widely known, and to the uniform and arms enthusiasts much of the kit used was at best bad and simply wrong in many cases (Polish Army extras were used, and lots of times we see their normal issue shirts and braces which don't look like period examples in any way). No one seems to be able to march in step, WW2 gas mask bags in abundance trying to be SBR bags and failing, etc, etc, etc...

Lots of effort was made filming TS-FDTV, and the result shows on camera - lots of period detail, kit right and accurate for the period, and great fun to make at the same time. The finished programme goes away from the "they all died for nothing" approach, and tries to show that the Army and the Generals in command did try and learn from their mistakes, introducing new weapons and tactics to try and win the war.


"If I am a fool it is, at least, a doubting one; and I envy no-one the certainty of his self-approved wisdom".

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Postby Jim Smith » Tue Mar 10, 2009 3:50 pm

Couldn't agree more with your assessment of TS-FDTV. Fits in nicely with the conclusions of one of the better Great War revisionists - Robin Neilands. (I'm thinking of his book 'The Great War Generals on the Western Front').

Despite its deficincies, the Channel 4 job still has its uses - especially when I'm wearing my GCSE/A-level Religious Studies hat.


"I hold it to be of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and

insulting words towards any one, for neither the one nor the other in any

way diminishes the strength of the enemy." Niccolo Machiavelli

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Postby Lord Byron » Tue Mar 10, 2009 6:36 pm

Jim Smith wrote:
Despite its deficincies, the Channel 4 job still has its uses - especially when I'm wearing my GCSE/A-level Religious Studies hat.


Couldn't disagree with that - it's probably on the right level for the vast majority of kids, barring the types like me :twisted: . I just can't stand to watch it really, I just end up shouting at the screen constantly :oops:


"If I am a fool it is, at least, a doubting one; and I envy no-one the certainty of his self-approved wisdom".

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Postby Lord Byron » Tue Mar 10, 2009 6:51 pm

As an aside, I've just dug out a list of "some" of the errors observed in the Channel 4 programme by Taff Gillingham, the military advisor for TS-FDTV:

"The Officer has brass shoulder titles on his tunic - WRONG!

All ranks have WW2 respirator haversacks - WRONG! Not only are they worn loosely around their necks on long slings instead of being worn tightly high on the chest, they are worn backwards with the opening flap the wrong side too. In a local am-dram production mid-WW2 respirator haversacks may be fine as substitutes for the Small Box Respirator Haversacks of The Great War - but they were not commonly introduced until much later in 1916/early 1917

None of the characters in 'Somme' wore PH Haversacks - WRONG!

The men are all wearing the Valise or 'Large Pack' which would have been left behind with the Transport when they marched up to the Front Line - WRONG!

The 'Fix Bayonets' scene owes more to the theatre than any WW1 drill - WRONG!

...and all this was seen in the first few seconds! From here on the errors may be in a rough chronological order but just as they have been scribbled down:

The Sergeant has a curious looking whistle lanyard which should be looped around his shoulder under the strap but is, instead, fixed to the button of the shoulder strap - WRONG!

Soldiers attacking in Marching Order with Large Packs - WRONG!

Rawlinson has no moustache - WRONG! Bundy's picture showed that he also had one too...

Rawlinson's repro rank insignia is awful

Rawlinson has no small buttons on his repro red gorgets - WRONG!

Rawlinson's medals - doubtful but need checking

Close up of marching feet - all rubber-soled boots - WRONG!

Incorrect Manchester Regiment Brass ORs Shoulder Titles - 22nd Battalion had special ones - WRONG!

Manchesters on the march; Observations:

Appalling marching - or lack of marching!

General look of the men - unconvincing as soldiers; dreadful repro kit

Captain has an Other Ranks brass cap badge instead of a bronze one - WRONG!

Captain has no bronze collar badges - unlikely

Captain's medals - must be wrong surely!!

Awful repro Caps - far too large - WRONG!

One man has Lewis Gun Magazine Panniers - not introduced until the Battle of Menin Road Ridge in 1917 - WRONG!

The Sergeant slouching along - he would always have marched - WRONG!

The Sergeant has odd sized tunic buttons - WRONG!

General observation - bad haircuts and sideburns!

- - -

Modern T-Shirts showing on some of the men - WRONG!

The Railway Cattle Trucks used for ferrying men held 40 men - on the floor without seats - and every man's memoir remembers them crawling along - not speeding along like an express train.

First view of German Trenches: Sandbags look like grain sacks - very poorly stacked - of no use defensively! - WRONG!

Part 2:

Bayonet Training - in slow time?!?!? Never come across this - WRONG!

Repro uniforms look a very dark colour and have no 'Russian' pleat at the back - WRONG!

Drill sergeant has the largest cap I have ever seen - lucky he has big ears! - WRONG!

Brass 2" buckles on web X-Straps on backs of men are all upside down - WRONG!

British soldiers were issued with Grey shirts. Whilst there is some variation and, occasionally civvie shirts seen - not modern green army ones! - WRONG!

CGI Aircraft appears to have American roundels - WRONG!

Rawlinson in aircraft - wearing WW2 style flying Goggles - WRONG!

Airmen wearing modern East European/Russian tank crew helmets! - WRONG!

Never seen WW1 aircraft with 'Kills' painted on the fuselage

Part 3:

Officer's revolver lanyards - there seem to be two - one around the shoulder which was not tightened and was flapping around - WRONG!

The other lanyard was worn around his neck instead of under his tunic collar - WRONG!

Briefing the men:

All ranks should have Respirators (PH) but these have none - WRONG!

Officer should have his Sam Browne on - WRONG!

Officer looks unshaved - DEFINITELY WRONG!

Men playing cricket in green and white shirts (see above) - WRONG!

Men all have modern East German (?) dark green braces instead of white cotton ones - WRONG!

22/Manchesters look more like a rambling club than marching soldiers...

In the recons the Ammo pouches in webbing are NEVER full! - WRONG!

Velcro used to fasten some uniforms - WRONG!

Voice-Over: "In addition the men carried... 250 rounds... pick and shovel... field dressing... smoke helmets..." Much of this was standard kit or, as in the case of the ammo, there was no additional 250 rounds - if so no one would have been able to move!

Voice-Over: "Such was the confidence in the artillery... men carried everything they would need..." Nonsense - men carried the stuff no matter if they had confidence or not - no one carried stuff which would not be needed once the German Lines had been captured.

Men in mix of helmets and caps on the march - unlikely - there would be an order of dress which all should follow, ie: Battle Order with helmet...

One man had a spare pair of boots around his neck!?!

French soldier in hospital with head wound looked more like a Sikh in a turban - I hope the lovely nurses never have to practice their bandaging skills on me!

Trench Scenes:

2/Devons have wrong shoulder titles - WRONG!

Devons also have post-1941 Lee Enfield No.4 Mk1 Rifles with an appalling bayonet adapter (a No.4 'spike' bayonet, sawn off to attach the correct 1907 pattern ones! - WRONG! - WRONG! - WRONG! - WRONG! - WRONG!

Large Packs worn in the trenches - WRONG! Very occasionally you see specialist troops with them...

Part 4:

'Prop hire' ammo boxes - not period ones - WRONG!

Staff Officer in a front line trench with no steel helmet - WRONG!

Awful salute by Staff Officer - WRONG!

Curious barbed wire 'knife rests'

Very little actual barbed wire

Middlesex Officer (Bunday) has a red backing to his brass 'pip' - WRONG!

He also has brass ORs 'Middlesex' titles - WRONG!

I mention the dreadful invented 'Fix Bayonets' drill again as it was sooo bad! - WRONG!

Modern sardine tins with ring pulls lying around!

Wrong ID discs

Modern pencils

Wrong shovels

Troops preparing for the Over The Top look like they are waiting for a bus...

Troops were trained to go OTT cheering and yelling - don't forget these men had trained an long time for this moment and, while they would have been apprehensive, many were certainly keen to 'get on with it'...

Troops going Over The Top in Large Packs - WRONG!

Troops going Over The Top one at a time; it would have taken until the end of November to get all 120,000 troops into action this slowly! - WRONG!

Where were the mines?! The 7.20am one at Beaumont Hamel would have been clearly heard but the ones at La Boiselle would definitely have rocked them! - WRONG!

Germans in Stahlhelms on 1st July...

Advancing 22/Manchesters:

No Extended Order drill for the advance - even though the voice over describes the men "extending to 6 paces apart"... - WRONG!

Most men - including the Sergeant - have no idea how to hold their rifles - many with fingers on the trigger 'modern style' and rifles magazine forwards - WRONG!

Devons have awful fieldcraft too - no proper formation - WRONG!

Men with tin triangles on their backs - only seen these with 29/Div - more likely to have flags or markers but would need to check with Op Orders...

The men are wearing their entrenching tool helves and bayonet scabbards over the top of their haversacks instead of underneath (although the haversacks should be worn on their backs) - WRONG!

Sergeant in captured German Trench reloads his rifle by removing the magazine - WRONG!

Khaki enamel waterbottle for wounded man - WRONG! Should be blue enamel!

No one's rifle 'kicks' when it is fired

Part 5:

Lt Bunday's pistol - don't know what it is but I bet it doesn't fire 'service calibre' ammunition!

Rawlinson in shirtsleeves? A Victorian General? I don't think so! - and even if he did - he wouldn't wear modern East European army braces!

His 4th Army Headquarters seems a little understaffed - and hardly a plush Chateau - more like an industrial unit!

The French advancing with their rifles 'aimed' seems highly unlikely - I bet no one could manage more than 20 feet like that!!

No desolation of No Man's Land near the German lines - liked the long grass at the start of the advance but no shell holes to be seen anywhere!

The germans firing from their trench appear to have a higher parados that their parapet?!?

Flipped film - a left-handed German firing a left-handed G98 Rifle!!

Voice Over mentions "50,000" casualties instead of 60,000 but I may have missed a qualification like "by 4pm"...

Part 6:

Voice Over: "Captain May's friend Sergeant Tawney"... "Friend"? No wonder Tawney became a leading socialist!!!

Trench clearance party appear to have AK47 slings or something silimar on their WW2 rifles - WRONG!

Very slow at trench clearing - and should be more of them

Very few men around in general

Stretcher Bearer who arrives to attend Sergeant Tawney has infantryman's webbing with a pistol in a holster?!!? - WRONG!

SBs rarely webbing at all...

His medical officer's satchel (also wrong) is still full - after a full days fighting???!

I'm no medic - but I wouldn't want him treating me!!

Dead German soldier (with diary) searched by Scottish soldiers with coloured hose tops - WRONG!

Voice Over: "Telegrams told thousands of wives and mothers..." No they didn't - only officers' families received telegrams - ORs families were sent letters through the post. Only occasionally do you find a telegram relating to an OR...

...after this I lost the will to live..."


"If I am a fool it is, at least, a doubting one; and I envy no-one the certainty of his self-approved wisdom".

Maker of reproduction WW1 and WW2 paperwork, eg 1915 AB64's, Officer's AB439's, Memorial Scrolls, etc:

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Postby Jim Smith » Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:49 pm

So the other three frames of the programme were OK then? :wink:

Seriously though, thank you for such an er.. enthusiastically comprehensive list. As someone with a bit of military experience I did wonder about the 22nd Manchesters rather idiosyncratic marching style, but my spotter radar is poorly tuned to the 1914-18 waveband, so I failed to pick up on much else. Besides, the bimble is an approved C15 style of marching and you can use whatever colour water container you like. :D

My real interest in the film is the diary entries which fill it. I've read both Capt. May and Sgt. Tawney's (transcripts in the Imperial War Museum Library).


"I hold it to be of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and

insulting words towards any one, for neither the one nor the other in any

way diminishes the strength of the enemy." Niccolo Machiavelli

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Postby Lord Byron » Wed Mar 11, 2009 1:11 am

Jim Smith wrote:So the other three frames of the programme were OK then? :wink:


It's scary in that this was almost what TS-FDTV was! :shock: The filming was all set to be filmed in Poland, Polish extras, etc, and Taff was able to convince the BBC that Khaki Devil Ltd could do a much better job in the UK (although it entailed all the Specialist Extras involved essentially taking hefty pay cuts for the hours and kit brought into it). When all the stuff that was arranged by the BBC was dropped, Channel 4 bought it up straight away and made their own.

Got some pictures of the trenches taken the day before filming started in 2005, can always try and get them scanned and put on here.


"If I am a fool it is, at least, a doubting one; and I envy no-one the certainty of his self-approved wisdom".

Maker of reproduction WW1 and WW2 paperwork, eg 1915 AB64's, Officer's AB439's, Memorial Scrolls, etc:

http://www.thefunkhole.co.uk/

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Postby Jim Smith » Fri Mar 13, 2009 9:40 am

Lord Byron wrote:
Jim Smith wrote:So the other three frames of the programme were OK then? :wink:


It's scary in that this was almost what TS-FDTV was! :shock: The filming was all set to be filmed in Poland, Polish extras, etc, and Taff was able to convince the BBC that Khaki Devil Ltd could do a much better job in the UK (although it entailed all the Specialist Extras involved essentially taking hefty pay cuts for the hours and kit brought into it). When all the stuff that was arranged by the BBC was dropped, Channel 4 bought it up straight away and made their own.

Got some pictures of the trenches taken the day before filming started in 2005, can always try and get them scanned and put on here.


Wouldn't mind seeing those if you can get round to it Lord B. Will you guys be at Kelmarsh? I must make the effort to get up to the trench this year.

Regards

Jim


"I hold it to be of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and

insulting words towards any one, for neither the one nor the other in any

way diminishes the strength of the enemy." Niccolo Machiavelli

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Lord Byron
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Postby Lord Byron » Wed Mar 18, 2009 11:02 pm

Jim Smith wrote:
Wouldn't mind seeing those if you can get round to it Lord B. Will you guys be at Kelmarsh? I must make the effort to get up to the trench this year.


Should be at Kelmarsh again this year, but after speaking to Steven Wisdom at TORM it seems despite it's incredible popularity the last two years it we won't be having a set of trenches this year :( - maybe we'll reenact the Kimmel riots of 1919 instead! :twisted:

Have just got around to scanning and putting the Somme pics on the web - the first 7 were taken by my Dad the day before filming began, the last two are scans of prints from pictures taken during the filming:

Image

The ruins of Thiepval

Image

More ruins of Thiepval

Image

German trenches

Image

Damaged German trenches

Image

Myself, entering British trenches

Image

British trenches

Image

No-Mans-Land viewed from British trenches

Image

British Tommie’s resting in between filming

Image

Lieutenant Godden and Tommy entering British trenches


"If I am a fool it is, at least, a doubting one; and I envy no-one the certainty of his self-approved wisdom".

Maker of reproduction WW1 and WW2 paperwork, eg 1915 AB64's, Officer's AB439's, Memorial Scrolls, etc:

http://www.thefunkhole.co.uk/

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Re: Somme Films

Postby buddy » Sun Jul 18, 2010 1:28 pm

I know its an old thread and wether you are still looking here but how about " the Battle of the Somme" a film shot in 1916 and remastered by the Imperial War Museum in 2005 with new music score,booklet.
I have only just purchased it myself and as of time of writing not watched it
It was estimated that more than 20 million tickets were sold in Great Britain in the first two months of its release.
duration 74 mins, extras 58 mins
best place to purchase film I found was play.com
http://www.play.com/DVD/DVD/4-/6362930/ ... oduct.html




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