The 100th anniversary of the Battle of The Somme certainly generated a lot of interest among people, both young and old alike.
So I know a lot of you will be interested in a new project which the Imperial War Museum (IWM) contacted me about.
Faye Jackson, of the IWM, explains that as part of the commemorations, the First World War Centenary Partnership, led by IWM, will be screening the 1916 documentary film The Battle of the Somme throughout this year and next.
As Faye reveals, The Somme took place during the First World War and lasted for 141 days. During that time, more than one million men, from both sides (the Allies and the Germans) were killed, wounded or captured.
“The Battle of the Somme film was released on August 21, 1916, and recorded the early stages of the battle,” says Faye.
“It is one of the most successful films in British cinema history and was seen by nearly half the population at the time of release.”
Screenings of the film will take place in more than 300 locations across the UK and around the world, with major showings planned at venues such as the Royal Festival Hall, the National Archives, and Dover Castle in the UK.
Overseas, there will be screening in France, New Zealand, Canada and Germany.
Faye explains that the IWM commissioned Laura Rossi to write a score to accompany the film for the 90th anniversary of the Somme in 2006, and there will be 100 live performances of the score (as part of an international project entitled Somme100 FILM), with both amateur and professional orchestras, between now and July, 2017.
People living on South Tyneside will have a chance to see the film when it is screened close to home at The Gala Theatre, in Durham.
The Somme100 FILM project will be screening the film along with a live orchestral performance at the theatre on November 4. Tickets cost between £5 and £10, and booking is required.
“The Battle of the Somme saw the British Army suffer more casualties, on July 1, 1916, than in the entire Crimean, Boer and Korean Wars combined,” says Faye. “Within the first 24 hours there were 57,740 casualties.”
“For more than 60% of the Army, this was their first experience of battle. A seven-day initial artillery bombardment was planned from June 24 until July 1 in attempt to destroy German trench defences and artillery. In the week leading up to the battle, over 1.5 million shells were fired. Although this bombardment was the biggest yet, many of the British shells were duds which did not explode.
“At 7.30am on Saturday, July 1, British troops advanced across no-man’s land towards the German lines. Within a few hours 19,240 British troops had been killed, out of a total of 57,470 casualties.
“Despite the costly first day, the Somme offensive continued for another four and a half months until November 18, 1916. It became a battle of attrition and over the 141 days of battle, the British took a strip of territory 10km deep and 32km long. Over the course of the battle over one million men from all sides were killed wounded or captured. The early stages of the Battle of the Somme were filmed for the documentary film,“The Battle of the Somme.
“The film, which is listed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World register, was the first feature-length documentary to record war in action. It was seen by over 20 million people, almost half the population of Britain at the time, and is one of the most popular and successful films in British cinema history.”
l The film aimed to record the British victory and demonstrate the effectiveness of the Army, covering the build-up and opening stages of the battle.
Anticipating the desire of the audience to spot their loved ones, the cameramen captured as many faces as possible often encouraging the men to acknowledge the camera.