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The Battle of the Somme (1916)

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Documentary (with some re-enacted footage) of the British army's participation in the Battle of the Somme in France during World War I.

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Title: The Battle of the Somme (1916)

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Documentary (with some re-enacted footage) of the British army's participation in the Battle of the Somme in France during World War I.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Documentary | War





Release Date:

10 August 1916 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Die Schlacht an der Somme  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


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Did You Know?


According to official sources, 20 million tickets for this film were sold (in the UK) in the first 6 weeks. That would equal about half the population of Britain at the time (43 million). It has been said that this record was not broken until the release of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) more than 60 years later. See more »


In the "over the top" sequence one of the "dead" soldiers turns his head towards the camera and then shifts his leg into a more comfortable position showing that the scene was staged/re-enacted. See more »

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User Reviews

Well restored and well made
12 November 2001 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

This film provides valuable insights into several parts of history that might otherwise be forgotten. It does not tell the whole story, but then the whole story is by definition, untellable. There is a saying where I come from that history is always written by the winning side. Therefore this film to some extent tells it from the British point of view. The treatment of German Prisoners Of War by both the British forces and by the film crew is compassionate, and we are left with the feeling that they are not mere ciphers, but human beings. In watching this film, several myths about the Great War were debunked. I learned that very few of the German soldiers sported comedy pointed helmets (most wore the type Paul McCartney wears in his Pipes Of Peace video'). The usual scenes of Trench battle we see in film and television programmes show poor visibility with the trenches shrouded in mist, but this is probably a cinematic convention brought about by budgetary constraints rather than a desire for accuracy. The other myth that is exploded by this film is that the ordnance used in this war was rather primitive, hence the need for foot soldiers. This couldn't be further from the truth, with very big guns with fifteen inch diameter shells being fired over very long distances. When one considers that the majority of the large guns had to be transported (although in some cases by horsepower) by hand, dismantled and moved, then reassembled on the muddy battlefields, all whilst under fire, the engineering and logistical feats seem all the more remarkable.

The interesting thing about this film is that I would happily sit through this and enjoy it, but I wouldn't be interested enough to read a book about the Battle, nor to research the subject at the imperial War Museum. This is a good way of making history come alive and would be of interest to both the young and old.

The Museum's restoration is very good. The picture frame rate seems to be correct, and there do not seem to be any jumps or major tears. However there are a number of minor scratches that could have been repaired with a little more effort, and it jars that this halfpenny of tar has spoiled an otherwise seaworthy ship. The only reason I can think that the remainder of the scratches were not removed is a desire to keep the medium analogue rather than digital. A digital conversion would have rendered the clean-up work a lot simpler, but might present problems for presentation purists.

The upright piano music used for this restoration is ideal for the purpose. It not only gives a feeling of authenticity, but also lends the correct atmosphere to the film. Top marks for restraint go to the Museum for resisting the temptation to dub on sound effects. If I wanted to hear BBC Sound Effects Volume 12 I would visit my record library!

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