on 19 July 2011
This is a tremendously important historical series, with the great war now out of living memory, the recordings of the veterans you will see on this series are all that is left to inform the younger generations of what it was like to fight in such a horrific war. It is a very good series, remember that when watching as it was several one hour episodes, unlike the previous reviewer who felt he had to "relieve the monotony of five hours of personal testimony". I would suggest that you watch an episode at a time. it is very watchable TV, even my wife with little interest in the period found it good watching. The re-enactments are accurate by living history groups and actors they are well filmed and put together and with the aural history from participants themselves tell an amazing story, that you can watch more than once.
I am sorry the previous reviewer felt the sacrifice of an entire generation of young men from this country and across the world was monotonous to watch, I am sure that he would rather spend five hours watching tele not of his liking than be in a frontline trench at Passendale for five minutes. However having watched the whole series probably 3 times at home and for military purposes when teaching, I would thoroughly recommend anyone with any interest in the the first world war period or the military to watch this DVD an epsidode at a time and listen to these truly remarkable men and women.
on 1 June 2012
After seeing the title, I felt that I had to have this for my WW1 collection. It is a remarkable piece of viewing with the men all aged 99 years or more when interviewed. The clarity of their memories had not dimmed and one felt truly privileged to be sharing these memories with them. I had a great uncle who served on the Somme but was never allowed to ask him about his war service. This was an absolute tragedy as I was studying this at school at the time and this was when I developed an interest in WW1.
It was like sitting with a much loved elderly relative sharing tea and scones and just listening to their stories. It was all the more special realising that one of the men, Jock Gaffron was from my part of the world. To see them in their twilight years made it all the more remarkable with the accompanying stories of the horrors in the mud and hearing what some of their colleagues were prepared to do to get away from the fighting.
The episode on the Home Front was extremely interesting as it brought home to me how many people were affected by food rationing and just how bad that actually was. To hear from the people telling how as children it felt like to hear about the death of a father and how they had to deal with it was extremely moving and seeing how it still affected them after the passing of many years.
This series is beautifully narrated by Nimmy March and coupled with the using of actors to portray certain aspects gives a startling clarity to a conflict which has now sadly passed from living memory with the death of Claude Choules in 2011.
Patriotism and jingoism is shown in the first episode and one of the veterans, Richard Hawkins outlines the situation perfectly by saying "Britain was a very very different place" in 1914 to the Britain of 2012. What amazed me also was in the conclusion when he admits "I enjoyed the ruddy war, we had the most tremendous fun". This is in stark contrast to Alfred Henn who freely admits "I wouldn't do it again, they'd have to come and get me, it was all a waste". Also interviewed were the last two surviving veterans at the time it was broadcast; Henry Allingham and Harry Patch. Henry Allingham was 112 at the time and his clear speech and demeanour as well as that of Harry Patch's show how amazing these two wonderful gentlemen were. Their memories were vivid and charged with emotion - to hear Harry admit that the Cenotaph ceremony is "just a military sideshow to my way of thinking" shows us that he considered the random waste of millions of lives needless, particularly as Harry was at Passchendaele when his beloved comrades in arms were killed in September 1917, which Harry admits is when he has his Rememberance Day.
All the veterans brought their own characters to this series which gave it colour and enjoyment - particularly as they were dealing with horrors that they all prayed would never happen again - however, whether or not they were called to serve again some twenty years later is not known but this would have made their hearts so heavy.
We also have the privilege of hearing from nurses and VAD's who served. To realise that the VAD's were unpaid is even more surprising; particularly as they were dealing with injuries that many doctors never deal with in a lifetime of medical work. One nurse who was over 105 years old was still traumatised when recalling the night a soldier was informing her of his nightmares and it was impossible to not tear up also.
I truly love this series and would consider it an excellent teaching tool to students studying this period. What better information could you get on WW1 than from the mouths of these incredible people. I would have loved to have met them myself.
Buy this DVD - you won't be disappointed.
on 15 January 2012
I have just finished watching the first DVD of the two, and can say i've been extremely 'moved' by this presentation, I have a great interest in 'The Great War' as my Grandfather served, and fought on the first day of the Somme, he was lucky enough to be one of the few who returned alive, albeit with machine-gun bullet wounds in his leg. The whole event did have an effect on him, as you can imagine, and it would of been an understatement to say he was a shadow of his former self, as was the same for so many, if not all of the veterans who fought in the war. I thought i had seen the best interviews/documentaries to date, but this is really something else! listening to some of the veterans accounts, almost left me with tears in my eyes, so many today just have no idea what those pore boys had to go through, and will never truly understand. I certainly will never forget, for what my grandfather went through, as well as all the other soldiers who fought on both sides. Anybody who has a general interest in 'The Great War' should have this for their collection, its a master piece.
on 16 December 2011
Excellent series that is comprised of interviews with people who had first hand experience of World War I. Combatants, children of combatants, civilians working on the home front this series has moving interviews with them all, most of whom were 90 years or older when the interviews were conducted. A terribly moving testament to bravery and stoicism I would consider it vital viewing for anyone looking to learn not only about The Great War, but about humanity.
on 25 October 2013
I've been researching The Great War for a couple of years now, having traced my great grandfather's steps on the Somme battlefield one summer holiday. During this time I've watched almost all of the DVD documentaries and YouTube footage currently available on the subject. There's some really interesting material out there - and this is certainly one of the best. For me there are three "must sees", in no particular order: (1) "The Great War", a renowned 1963 BBC TV series which gives the viewer an accurate and fulsome background to events using lots of original film material; (2) this DVD, "Last Voices of World War One", which is a remarkable personalised account that really brings to life the narrative given in "The Great War"; and (3) the commentary track on the Imperial War Museum DVD extras version of Geoffrey Malins' 1916 propaganda piece "The Battle of the Somme" which is clinically incisive. For those with stretched resources, the Malins film DVD extras commentary is available on YouTube at the time of writing (if you search for it), and this DVD is also available in an American release for a lower price on the UK Amazon web site. As far as I can tell it's exactly the same film, same voice-over, but you do need a USA region DVD player or computer. For people wanting to research The Great War as we approach the 100th anniversary of 1914, this is a wonderful resource. Quite frankly it's a brilliant documentary, pitched squarely at the experience of the ground level participant, and thoroughly worthwhile as a result.We're so lucky that the forward-thinking film-makers thought to compile this information in the final years of life for these last few WW1 heroes, and equally lucky that they agreed to take part. Rarely have I seen such grace and dignity in a TV documentary. An incredibly worthwhile piece of work, it would be a real shame if this documentary gets lost among the many lesser accounts of WW1 that are out there and currently being produced in time for the coming anniversary.
on 11 October 2012
This series is best watched in the dark and one at a time. The accounts given by these old men may be looked at by some as old war stories by yesterdays soldiers. Well think again. The accounts, not stories are just remarkable and told with such enthusiasm. Some nearly had me in tears as Harry Patch describes how he shot a German in the leg as he did not want to kill him. The accounts of these men seeing their friend blown to pieces and cut down by walls of lead are unimaginable. These men without any body armour walked towards this wall of lead only to be cut down. These old men are not just OLD SOLDIERS but each one has his History which makes this an emotional and enjoyable set of dvds. After watching this my respect for them already great went sky high and its a reason we all should go to the cenotaph each year. Each man at some point describes the war as a waste of life and told with such sadness but with pride too. An amazing set told by men who had guts and suffered so tragically. Very sad, very good and an inspiration to us all. Our Generation owes you such gratitude it can never be fully paid.
on 7 November 2013
I bought this for my daughter to watch in preparation for an A Level History visit to Ypres. It is in episodes, and uses a mixture of actual footage from WW1 as well as reconstructions. It is very poignant, particularly as all of the men featured have since passed away.
on 4 August 2014
This is a brilliant documentary and it was worth every penny.
I've only watched the first disc so far, but I am very impressed and would recommend it to anyone thinking of buying it. It is so nice to see history from the point of view of the men and women who were actually there.
It is both horrific and moving to see and hear what those poor people endured and suffered. A war to end all wars? If only it had been... But as Celia Johnson said in "This Happy Breed" (another brilliant DVD) - 'There will always be wars as long as men are stupid enough to want to go to them...' (or words to that effect).
on 17 June 2015
When this series was aired on TV I missed a lot of the episodes so thankfully I can now watch this excellent and moving tribute to the brave men who went to defend democracy and especially the many who did not return. Excellent and at times heartbreaking hearing the experiences of the 'Last Voices' now sadly no longer with us but their cheerfulness was an inspiration despite the terrible ordeals some of these heroes went through. Should be promoted in this anniversary time of the two world wars which took too many young men and lost a generation to the folly of War.
on 27 July 2014
This is essential viewing for anyone interested in the First World War. First hand accounts, not historians or commentators.
Only here can we begin to touch the past, only here can we begin to understand what it was like. Stories from
ordinary people who were so really quite extraordinary in their sense of service. Most illuminating, perhaps, are the different accounts of why men enlisted, what they thought they were fighting for, and what they thought of war. This is real.