This is a two-tape set, and is the first half of a two-set series of tapes on World War I. (The second half is called 1914-1918 The Crucible). Together, they are an excellent review of World War I -- its origins, the soldiers who fought it, the big battles and strategies, the impact on society, and the aftermath. It uses classic film footage, archive photos, and expert commentary to weave together the complex story of the war. This first half, naturally, explores the origins of war and traces the war through the first couple of years of warfare, when the combatants slowly came to realize they were locked in a tragic stalemate that was devastating to all concerned. This is big, lavish and authoritative; a great introduction to this vital bit of history.
Where this programme came from is anyone's guess ----- a fusion of BBC Education and the History Channel perhaps ----- but it is accidentally the best series made about the First World War. Combining modern day video production and heart breaking archive from the conflagration, Judi Dench narrates this classic work of conflict and personal loss which ran through our grand-parents lives. This is no chronological run through of events and battles though --- for the first time the devastating losses and contributions of women in the war is assiduously chronicled and at last properly documented. Because my own elderly relations fought and thankfully survived this horrific conflict I find it impossible not to be moved, knowing how kindly and optimistic their generation was. It was a reality that their gentleness and idealism was permanently destroyed by the horrors they witnessed. Focussing on the human cost, time has distanced us from the complex military issues which have dogged discussion of the War for so long. Eventually there is some consensus that the technology evolved a long term war of attrition, where only the strongest survived. There is no heart rending debate about tactics or if the British Generals were 'butchers' or if thousands of lives were needlessly thrown away. Instead we see the war from the perspective of those who fought and supported the troops. As this was a world struggle we learn about the equality of suffering in all nations involved, and not before time commemoration of the hugely brave struggle of the French on whose soil the vital battles took place. This is something of a compendium about the Great War ---- it doesn't get bogged down in detail or facts but does give a strong sense of what it was like to be involved in the conflict. The modern footage of battle sites and homes of the combattants is presented with all the slickness and production values eliciting the heart breaking intrusion of violence and loss on simple lives, yet the editorial pulls no punches in blaming German expansionism for the war and by inference crediting the British for stopping it.....for a while anyway. This is a stunning and lovingly crafted memorial to an innocent generation who fought for their separate ideals. Sadly it signalled the end of the British Empire and twenty years later the demise of Germany itself. This video evocatively details a destructive four year struggle which only postponed the resoloution of competing Euro-powers, it documents the dashed hopes of people like my Grandfather who thought their physical sacrifice would end bullying for good. For the first time this is a fitting testament to the super-human bravery of those who tried to fight facism and failed. It also chronicles the death of our own country, pushed into terminal decline after 1919 and a disasterous showing in World War II only saved by America from invasion and total capitulation. The Great War was one we won....on paper, but it's cost was the end of our status as a superpower, and the question must be asked as to who really was victorious in the conflict?
This is simply brilliant but can't work out why its not available on DVD. I watched this when it was first released and and found it an incredible insight into WW1. What was profoundly humbling was the footage of those who returned from the war with appaling injuries. Not just the amputees but those with horrific facial disfigurements which brought about the birth of plastic surgery. The war ended in 1918 but lived in the minds of many soldiers for years afterwards. The treatment given to soldiers suffering from shell shock is simply abhorrant, seeing images of those young men unable to cope with the slightest noise whilst knowing they were subjected to electric shock treatment makes you want to weep. It's vital for people to see such footage so please please release this on DVD so i can watch this again.