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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 17 March 2017
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on 8 March 2004
This is probably the best documentary on the subject since the 1960's series 'The Great War'. It attempts to explain and highlight the tactics and strategy's employed in the conflict and is both revisionist and traditional in its interpretation of events. Its clever use of letters and diaries of the time helps to produce a sense of the time for the viewer. Although unseen footage of the period is now hard to come by this series does manage to include some previously unseen pictures.
The series will be useful to anyone interested in British and/or military history. A very good aid for the pupil at school learning about the Great War just as for the graduate.
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on 22 April 2006
I have now seen these DVDs twice and they have been send twice also on Danish Televisions DR2 programme. I think that they are very good and worthwile buying.

They give a great introduction to the First World War and with only ten episodes you can't expect more. Another reader here compares it to BBCs Great War of the 1960s, and of course that series was more detailed because it was a seventeen and half hours epic!

The big advantage of the present series is that it has a modern touch showing the places as of today and very good maps, which are normally lacking in DVDs on the First and Second World Wars.

Strachans also brings home that the First World War was a true world war by describing and analysing the events outside of the Europe and the Western Front. I agree although with the other reviewers that he should have put a little more emphasis on the main events on the main theatres of war than he did.

But the only thing I really wonder about is when the two other volumes are coming in his three part book series on OUP. The account is very good although the maps are awful. They only show you the places, and not the fronts or the armies. That is hopefully gonna change in the upcoming volumes.
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VINE VOICEon 4 February 2007
The 1960's BBC series, "The Great War" is more definitive than this latest production. Examples where there is lack of completeness are the Verdun and Somme campaigns which are compressed into one episode. The Eastern Front which was cataclysmic from a Russian perspective is also sparsely covered. This is undoubtedly an unbalanced production in terms of the importance of the action versus the time spent on the aspect covered. If one requires a definitive documentary on this war, rather purchase the BBC version but this production being more than 40 years old, although excellent, is rather dated in style.

In contrast in this DVD little known actions are covered in a disproportional amount of detail. No other video covers aspects such as the campaign in the ex-German colonies such as German East Africa [now Tanzania] & German South West Africa [now known as Namibia]. The German attempts to incite the Islamic world into anti British & Russian actions are also covered quite comprehensively.

Even though the aforementioned aspects are treated at the expense of more important parts of the war, it does add a new dimension to a war which otherwise comprised an unremitting series of artillery bombardments, machine guns scything down lines of soldiers "going over the top" & battles which are similar to one another & which in the facetious words of Rowan Atkinson a la Black Adder merely resulted in General Haig's drink's table moving one yard nearer to Berlin.

The style is a balance between three presentation styles. The backbone are videos many of them new to this reviewer. These are interwoven with extracts of diaries from eye witnesses. This provides a sense of immediacy. It would have been preferable to use the testimony of the actual eye witnesses but given the effluxion of time this was probably not possible. The third component of the style is the use of contemporary & current views of the same scene. This certainly provides an additional dimension to this production. The blend of these three styles does provide renewed interest in the subject.

Overall this is an excellent production & deserves to be purchased but bear in mind that a comprehensive account is not possible within a 10 hour production. For those who have all the currently available videos on this war, this DVD covers certain neglected aspects & for those who are neophytes to the subject it will give one a feel for the combatants, style of warfare & modus operandi.
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on 22 September 2016
My great grandfather died in this war and I wanted to know more about it and how this senseless, futile war all began. It is excellently made and I thoroughly recommend it to other people interested in this war history. There are 3 DVDs in this package. It is sad though, very sad and highlights the total barbarity and blood curdling senselessness of war.
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on 18 December 2016
Very informative. What I liked about this series was that it did not focus solely on the British side of the conflict. There was a lot of content that, while maybe not always exactly new to me, I did not know a great deal about. Having watched the series, I feel I have gained a better understanding of WW1 and would recommend it to others.
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on 6 June 2012
The BBC's 1964 series "The Great War" is a much better introduction to the war. The main claims to fame of this production are that it contains original color footage ("The Great War" is all black and white), and that it focuses a lot on underrepresented aspects of the conflict, such as the war in Africa. However, this latter point is of little interest to a newcomer looking for a basic introduction, and it makes the overall flow of the story hard to follow. Another point in this series is to film the original locations as they are today - which ends up meaning a lot of guys with weird haircuts and designer jeans sipping lattes, and this is actually detrimental to setting the historic tone.

The maps are not very good and the coverage of major battles and sequences of battles is rushed and missing important facts.

I do give some stars for the color footage, which is fascinating.
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on 19 March 2014
I have watched this set, which is now currently showing on BBC 4, though it came out originally on Channel 4. It is okay so far as it goes, but it cannot compare with the classic BBC 26 part series of 1964, 'the Great War', even though it very usefully contains material that the 1964 series did not, such as what happened in the Great War in Africa and the mass genocide of at least 800,000 Armenians by the Turks in 1915 - though even here this is not dealt with properly, since it leaves completely open the question of whether this genocide really was a planned genocide, when there is a wealth of eveidence, including eye-witness reports that were collected soon after the event that it really was. Even on the BBC 1964 series which scarcely covers this they show photos of many dead Armenians hanging from posts. As to why this channel 4 series should leave out something like this I can only surmise that this is part of their overall approach to the genocide which is to play the whole thing down, probably on politically correct grounds. I find this annoying. Also the narrator is far too low key in my opinion and does not compare with Sir Michael Redgrave in the BBC 1964 series, nor does the music score match up to that of the earlier series by Michael Josephs (with apparently uncredited bits of Shostakovich added in). Neither do we see enough about the key, awful battles on the Western Front with all their mass slaughter, and some of them are only dealt with by a passing reference. So, I would therefore recommend the BBC 1964 series - but.....it is not available, except for a couple of copies selling on Amazon through independent sellers at £325 and £350!Now, I very recently contacted the BBC about this and was advised to write to or email Adrian van Klaveren. His email adress is: adrian.van-klaveren@bbc.co.uk if anyone would like to contact him. The upshot of my email correspondence with him was that the BBC are going to be showing on BBC TV the whole series some time this autumn - BUT they are not going to be re-releasing this DVD series, and not only that, it is outside of the BBC UK's hands, and here I quote Mr von Klaveren:"On The Great War series, I'm afraid there isn't much I can add to what I've previously said. The release of DVDs is a commercial decision for BBC Worldwide - it is not something which falls within the remit of the licence-fee funded public service BBC. We are explicitly not allowed to use licence fee money to compete in the commercial DVD market. In this particular case, BBC Worldwide's judgment has to take into account the fact that we are about to show the entire series for free (which would have a substantial impact on possible sales) and the complex and expensive rights position of the series. It contains a very large amount of archive from non-BBC sources, all of which would need to be individually cleared for a commercial release."

All very unfortunate and unfair! One person, for example, who I have exchanged comments with on Amazon elsewhere wants to get copies for his grand-children. I have read other very critical comments on Amazon re having to pay astronomical prices for the odd copy floating around from an independent seller. I mean, it is curious that the classic World at War ITV series about World War 2 is still available on Amazon, all 11 discs of it too (as against the 7 discs of the BBC Great War series), and at less than £20! And that is a very old series too, coming out only nine years after the BBC Great War series. Would that we could get the BBC 1964 series on Amazon for this price!
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on 23 February 2012
This series is a fine introduction to the First World War. It is important, however, to be aware that this series emphasizes certain aspects of the war but does not give a clear overview of the military course of the war on the ground. Here, there is a lot of time given over to how individuals, leaders and common people perceived the war but the actual conduct of operations is glossed over.
The series is to be praised for bringing to light formerly obscure aspects of the war such as the Ottoman struggle against the Russians which is usually ignored because it was not really strategically significant as was the conflict between the Ottomans and the British in the south. The Armenian tragedy is discussed at some length showing that Turkish atrocities against Armenian civilians was a consequence of military operations in the war and not merely a mindless ethnic persecution. The untenable situation of the Jews in Eastern Europe who were caught between the three different empires which led to expulsion, impoverishment and pogroms is discussed at length showing that these roots in the First World War were merely the prelude to even worse to come.
The most significant novelty of this series is that they go to great lengths to show that the view that the war was not merely a "senseless slaughter" and that the Generals were NOT all a bunch of stupid, arrogant men indifferent to the welfare and fate of their men. The film points out that dozens of Generals on both sides were killed in the war sharing the fate of the men at the front line, so it is wrong to picture them all as aloof people who spent their time at a chateau behind the lines. The series points out that the technology that existed at the beginning of the war led to the stalemate in the trenches and that the Allied military leaders worked assiduously to find ways to break the stalement and that they did learn from their failures, which is what led them ultimately to victory.
It is also pointed out that many if not most soldiers and civilians behind the lines believed in their cause, were willing to fight for their country and the Allied soldiers believed that it was important for the future of liberal democracy that the militarist Germans be defeated. It is true that the war did spawn a lot of nihilistic movements and the war brutalized society making the even greater horrors of the Second World War but the final episode ends on the note that the war did prove to a lot of people that military action can provide solutions to problems for good and for bad and this has been seen in places like the Middle East and the Balkans to this day.
Thus, as I stated above this series is a good introduction to the war, but someone who is interested should pursue other series made in the past, e.g. the BBC's "The Great War" and CBS's "World War I" narrated by Robert Ryan, both of which were made for the 50th anniversary of the start of the war in 1964 and both of which give a clearer outline of the military operations of the war.
As a final note, I like the fact that the film shows modern views of locations seen in the archive films. For example we see photo of the Kaiser, Hindenburg and Ludendorff standing in a doorway at the hotel Britannique (ironical name, isn't it?) which was their Western Front Headquarters. The film then switches to a modern view of the same doorway in color....I found this an effective way to bring these events of the past into our modern conciousness. They also have a rare recording of the Kaiser speaking and we also see him gardening as a elderly man in exile in Holland. These are special historical "treats" I have not seen anywhere else.
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on 6 October 2004
Great coverage of the causes of the war and the often overlooked actions in China, the Middle East, Italy and the Eastern Front. However quite disappointing that both Verdun and the Somme battles are compressed into just two thirds of one 50 minute episode and the 'Race for the Sea' and the first, second and third battles of Ypre are omitted altogether.
Overall a very good series but I would recommend that viewers supplement the content by reading Hew Strachan's books on which it is based.
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