I first saw this series when it was repeated by the BBC in the early Seventies on Sunday afternoons. I watched several of the episodes with my grandmother whose beloved brother died at the Battle of the Somme. It is one of the main reasons that I am interested in the First World War, why I became a historian and why I take groups of schoolchildren to the battlefields every year. After years of claiming it was 'out of date' and 'unshowable' the BBC have released it on video/DVD and shown it on TV on Saturday evenings. As I started to watch the first episode the hairs on the back of my neck stood up-the portentous music,Sir Michael Redgrave's melifluous narratiion, the superbly literate script by John Terraine and Correlli ('Bill') Barnett, the archive footage (even if much of it is used out of context)-it was all as I remembered it. This series provided the blueprint for many others, especially 'The World at War'. It is a timeless classic which should be seen by anyone with the remotest interest in history or a moving story superbly told. Interestingly the series was masterminded by John Terraine and, as such, embodies the then unfashionable 'revisionist' view that not all the generals (especially Field Marshal Haig)were blundering idiots who sent men cruelly to their deaths but were limited by the available technology into fighting grim attrition battles as the only means of victory. This now pretty much the academic orthodoxy-40 years after this classic series was made!
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